A Senate panel in Arizona approved on Thursday sweeping abortion legislation that would, among other things, prohibit the procedure from being performed based on an unborn child’s Down syndrome diagnosis or other genetic abnormality.
If doctors performed those abortions, they could face between two and nine years of prison. While the bill exempts mothers from civil or criminal liability, fathers who are married to the mother can bring civil action on behalf of the child.
Every Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee opposed the bill, which would also follow other anti-abortion initiatives in clarifying that unborn children enjoy the same rights, privileges and immunities available to other citizens. That appeared to be limited, however, as the legislation noted those rights were “subject only to the Constitution of the United States” and Supreme Court decisions.
“This will definitely chill that kind of medical advice because a doctor is potentially facing up to 8 years in prison for informing his patient of these abnormalities,” Tucson Democratic Sen. Kirsten Engel said.
But Katie Glenn, who serves as Government Affairs Counsel at Americans United for Life, told Fox News the bill was a tool to block discrimination.
“The most dangerous place for a person with Down syndrome is in the womb,” she said on Friday. “You should not have to be born to be protected against the tragedy of disability discrimination. It’s great to see lawmakers recognize what we all know to be true — that people with Down syndrome have lives worth living.”
Republican Sen. Nancy Barto of Phoenix said her proposal protects the most vulnerable and restores dignity to aborted fetuses by requiring that they be buried or cremated. Part of the legislation grants, in the case of surgical abortions, mothers the right to determine “the method and location for final disposition of bodily remains,” according to the fact sheet. It also contained restrictions on medication abortions.
“This bill is about restricting abortion care and banning abortion, and it’s not about protecting those with disabilities as the sponsor would lead us to believe,” said Marilyn Rodriguez of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona. She called it “a cruel attempt to yet again limit abortion, this time by targeting families who seek this option after learning their fetus has developed a disability.”
While the bill’s future is uncertain, Republicans control the governorship and both houses of the state legislature.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.