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Paul A. Isaacson, M.D., et al. v. Mark Brnovich, et al.

Status: Ongoing
Last Update: December 21, 2021

What's at Stake

Two Arizona physicians, the Arizona Medical Association, Arizona National Council of Jewish Women, and the Arizona National Organization of Women are challenging two abortion restrictions passed in Arizona in April of this year that would ban some abortions and grant “personhood” status to fetuses, embryos, and fertilized eggs. A federal district court judge, ruling before the law was scheduled to take effect on Sept. 29, granted their request to temporarily block the provision that would effectively ban many abortions sought due to the presence or presumed presence of a fetal condition. The ruling is currently on appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. On December 10, 2021, defendants filed an application for a partial stay of the district court’s preliminary injunction pending the appeal proceedings with the U.S. Supreme Court, after the district court and the Ninth Circuit each denied similar stay applications. The Supreme Court has yet to rule on defendants’ stay petition.

Summary

The district court denied plaintiffs’ request to block another part of the law that classifies fetuses, embryos, and fertilized eggs as “people” starting at the point of conception. The court did not rule out the possibility that this provision could ultimately be deemed unlawful, particularly if or when it is used to violate Arizonans’ constitutional rights.

The restrictions challenged include:

1) A ban on abortions based on a patient’s reason for seeking one, including when the abortion could be deemed due to a fetal condition or diagnosis. This ban targets pregnant people already facing complex considerations regarding fetal genetic conditions by taking away their constitutional right to choose previability abortion and driving a wedge between a patient and their provider; and

2) a “personhood requirement” that would classify fetuses, embryos, and fertilized eggs as people starting at the point of conception for purposes of all Arizona law. The “personhood requirement” would criminalize important medical care that is essential for pregnant people and would place physicians and pregnant people at risk of arbitrary prosecution for a vast array of actions that could harm fetuses and embryos.

The law’s abortion ban and “personhood requirement” are just the latest attacks on access to the medical care Arizonans need. The challenged law interferes with patients’ access to information about genetic conditions and invades the physician-patient relationship, in addition to violating the constitutional rights of patients and providers.

The ACLU and the ACLU of Arizona represent plaintiffs Arizona Medical Association and Eric M. Reuss, M.D., M.P.H. in the case. The other plaintiffs in the case are Paul A. Isaacson, M.D., National Council of Jewish Women (Arizona Section), Inc., and Arizona National Organization For Women. The Center for Reproductive Rights is lead counsel in the case. It was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona.

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