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Federal Judge says Arizona personhood law is “unconstitutionally vague”

by | Jul 13, 2022

By Dave Andrusko

U.S. District Judge Douglas Rayes, an Obama appointee, ruled on Monday that a 2021 Arizona  personhood law is unconstitutionally vague.

“When the punitive and regulatory weight of the entire Arizona code is involved, Plaintiffs should not have to guess at whether their conduct is on the right or the wrong side of the law,” Judge Rayes said.

The attorney general’s office disagreed.“Today’s ruling was based on an interpretation of Arizona law that our office did not agree with, and we are carefully considering our next steps,” spokesperson Brittni Thomason said in an email.

“Our office has concluded the Legislature has made its intentions clear with regards to abortion laws,” Attorney General Mark Brmovich announced on Twitter. “ARS 13-3603 is back in effect and will not be repealed.”

Last August abortion providers sued to block the law. They argued that “because it did not make clear what conduct, if any, it would prohibit,” it was unconstitutionally vague , according to Bob Christie of the Associated Press.

The attorney general’s office said in court filing that “Rayes got it right last September when he refused to block the law,” Christie wrote. “Rayes had cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from 1989 [Webster] where the court declined to block Missouri’s nearly identical law.”

Oddly enough, Judge Rayes said he has now changed his mind about the relevance of that case.

“The Court is now persuaded it was wrong to rely on Webster the first go around,” he wrote. 

In addition, last March Arizona passed a law which banned most abortions after 15 weeks. “That measure is set to take effect in September,” Christie reported.

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