Rejecting fears by doctors they could get arrested, Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday signed a new law restricting who can get an abortion.
The measure, which takes effect later this year, makes it a felony to terminate a pregnancy if the woman is seeking the procedure because of a fetal genetic defect. The verbiage is so broad that it also could result in similar charges — and potentially a year in state prison — for nurses and others who assist, potentially including clerical staff.
In signing the bill, Arizona becomes one of only a handful of states with such a restriction.
It also potentially opens the state up to litigation. While a federal appeals court has upheld a similar law in Ohio, the U.S. Supreme Court has never decided whether this kind of blanket rule runs afoul of its precedents limiting the right of states to interfere with a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy prior to a fetus becoming viable.
Ducey’s decision comes less than a week after a coalition of medical groups asked him to veto it because it “severely compromises the physician-patient relationship.”
“The bill will discourage communication and affect care between physicians and patients by creating a fear of criminal prosecution,” wrote Dr. Miriam Anand, president of the Arizona Medical Association. She said that relationship is based on open and honest communication which both serves the health and safety of the patient and ensures the doctor can make the most informed medical judgment.
“This should not be compromised,” Anand wrote on behalf of not only her organization but also the Arizona section of American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Arizona Osteopathic Medical Association and the Arizona Academy of Family Physicians.