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Judge temporarily blocks key aspect of new Arizona abortion law

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A pregnant woman stands on a scale before receiving a prenatal exam at the Maternity Outreach Mobile in Phoenix, Arizona October 8, 2009.REUTERS/Joshua Lott

By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) – A U.S. federal judge temporarily blocked a key aspect of a new Arizona abortion law that would have allowed felony charges to be laid against doctors for terminating a pregnancy solely on the basis of a hereditary abnormality in the fetus.

U.S. District Judge Douglas Rayes raised concerns in an order granting a partial preliminary injunction against the law, according to a court filing late on Tuesday in the United States District Court for the district of Arizona.

“This problem is exacerbated by the reality that the decision to terminate a pregnancy is a complex one, and often is motivated by a variety of considerations, some of which are inextricably intertwined with the detection of a fetal genetic,” Rayes wrote in the order.

However, the judge declined to grant a preliminary injunction for another aspect of the legislation requiring fetuses, embryos and fertilized eggs to be referred to as “people” from the point of conception.

In April, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed into law a measure banning abortions performed strictly on the basis of genetic disorders detected in the fetus, such as Down syndrome or cystic fibrosis, unless the condition is considered lethal.

The bill, approved earlier in Arizona’s Republican-controlled legislature along strict party-line votes, makes it a felony for a medical professional to terminate a pregnancy solely on the basis of a hereditary abnormality in the fetus.

Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, which sponsored the legislation, said Tuesday’s ruling was “only the first review by the federal courts”.

“We remain confident the law will be upheld and ruled enforceable in its entirety,” Herrod added.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) expressed relief in a statement cited by news website Axios. The ACLU had filed a lawsuit challenging the legislation on behalf of the Arizona Medical Association and a local doctor.

“People should not be interrogated about their reason for seeking an abortion,” the ACLU said. “There are no right or wrong reasons.”

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