Federal judge blocks state law identifying fetuses as people
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A federal judge blocked an Arizona law from taking effect that would have required the state to grant the same rights to fetuses that it does to all other people.

U.S. District Judge Douglas Rayes ruled Monday that the Arizona law recognizing the “personhood” of a fetus from the moment of conception until birth was too vague and could potentially result in injury.

“A law is unconstitutionally vague if its application is so unclear that people of ordinary intelligence cannot figure out in advance how to comply with it,” Rayes wrote in his ruling, pointing out that identifying the unborn as a person may constitute abortion as a homicide. “The consequences of imprecision are potentially sweeping and severe.”

The Arizona statute was previously passed in April 2021, and required rights and laws be “interpreted and construed” to acknowledge “an unborn child at every stage of development.” The law also prohibited abortions based on the sex, race or genetic abnormalities a baby may have, according to Fox News.

The law has faced legal challenges prior to Rayes’s Monday ruling, Fox News reported, pointing out that a federal judge issued a partial preliminary injunction last year, putting a hold on the law’s provision prohibiting abortions on the basis of a child having a survivable genetic abnormality.

At the time, the judge decided to leave the “personhood” provision alone, according to Fox News.

However, this time around, Rayes argued in his ruling that it was not clear the impact the “personhood” law would have on other state laws. 

In his ruling, Rayes also pointed to two existing abortion laws in Arizona – one from 1901 that restricts nearly all abortions and one signed earlier this year prohibiting abortions after 15 weeks – which both allow exceptions in a case where the mother’s life is at risk.

“Regardless of how this dust settles, even under the strictest of Arizona’s potential abortion regimes, some abortions would remain lawful,” Rayes wrote in his ruling. “And Arizona has an assortment of laws that recognize and regulate the provision of legal abortion.”

But abortion critics have argued that despite the reversal of Roe, incidents when the life of the mother is at risk do not qualify as an illegal abortion under the new interpretation of federal law.

READ MORE: “Supreme Court decision won't prohibit treatment of dying moms, doctors say”

Rayes's ruling also comes after Arizona Assistant Solicitor General Kate Sawyer reportedly told a judge last week that the “personhood” law cannot be used to bring criminal charges against abortion providers.

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