In April 2021, Arizona enacted Senate Bill 1457, which broadens the entire Arizona criminal and civil code such that every mention of “person” or “child” includes “an unborn child at every stage of development.” This so-called “Personhood Provision” provides the grounds for state actors in Arizona including prosecutors and child welfare authorities to treat the fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses inside of pregnant women as whole persons with independent rights.
The ACLU, ACLU of Arizona, and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a constitutional challenge to the “Personhood Provision,” as well as another provision of Senate Bill 1457 that effectively bans many abortions sought due to the presence or presumed presence of a fetal condition. The United States District Court for the District of Arizona blocked the latter provision, but allowed the “Personhood Provision” to go into effect. An appeal of both components of the district court’s ruling is now pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
This week, NAPW filed an amicus brief on behalf of 13 criminal and reproductive justice organizations including Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice, Color of Change, Fair and Just Prosecution, and If/When/How. The brief argues that while the “Personhood Provision” purports to expand the personhood of the unborn, its primary impact will be to diminish the constitutional personhood of pregnant and postpartum women. In particular, the Personhood Provision opens the door to prosecutions or other punitive state actions against women for being pregnant and subjecting the “unborn child” to any perceived risk of harm or for experiencing a miscarriage or stillbirth.
As the brief documents, prosecutors across the country have already subjected pregnant women to prosecutions based on precisely the theory of personhood for the unborn that the legislature has now embraced. This theory has also provided the basis for forcing pregnant women to submit to dangerous medical interventions and subjecting them to civil detention. These cases serve as a warning of the stark deprivations of rights and liberty that pregnant and postpartum women in Arizona will fear if the Personhood Provision is upheld.
Read the full brief.
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