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Arizona lawmakers petition for right to defend abortion law protecting Down syndrome babies after AG refuses


“While common sense says that this law deserves everyone’s support, abortionists and others with a vested interest in seeing such abortions continue have sued to tear it down. The House speaker and Senate president have a direct interest in defending the bill the Legislature passed and working to ensure this lawsuit’s inhumane aims do not succeed.”


Several abortionists have filed suit against Arizona challenging its abortion ban based on race, sex, and genetic abnormality, but the newly elected pro-abortion attorney general says she will not answer the lawsuits, forcing Arizona’s legislative leaders to file a petition with the judicial branch asking that they be allowed to defend the law in court.

Quick Facts

House Speaker Ben Toma, R, and Senate President Warren Peterson, R, filed a petition earlier this week to defend court challenges against Arizona’s law banning so-called discrimination abortions, as well as Arizona’s statute called the Interpretation Policy, which explains that all state laws shall be interpreted to grant the unborn all rights given to other persons.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed the petition on their behalf because newly elected Attorney General Kris Mayes, D, is refusing to defend pro-life laws.

Since 2011 Arizona has banned abortion due to sex or race and in 2021 extended the law to “protect…the disability community from discriminatory abortions, including, for example, Down-syndrome-selective abortions.” Genetic abnormality is defined as “the presence or presumed presence of an abnormal gene expression in an unborn child, including a chromosomal disorder or morphological malformation occurring as the result of abnormal gene expression.”

The law grants some exceptions, among them that genetic abnormality does not include a lethal fetal condition and if “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” of the mother is at risk. The law also doesn’t allow for criminal or civil penalties against a mother who has such an abortion performed.

Still, Mayes, who took over as Arizona’s attorney general in early January 2023, has announced that she will not prosecute abortionists who perform abortions that violate Arizona law and has vowed to use her supervisory authority to prevent county attorneys from prosecuting illegal abortions.

“The President and Speaker have a unique interest in defending the constitutionality of laws duly enacted by the Arizona Legislature. Because Attorney General Mayes will not defend the constitutionality of the challenged laws, the existing parties do not adequately represent the Legislative Leaders’ interests, and the Court should grant their motion to intervene,” argues the petition.

Toma and Peterson “seek intervention to defend their interests, which include exercising statutory rights to defend the constitutionality of state statutes, and advocating for the life and equal dignity of vulnerable unborn children. The Leaders are entitled to intervene as a matter of statutory right, and no other party will represent their interests or adequately defend the challenged laws.”

ADF Senior Counsel Denise Harle, director of the ADF Center for Life, said in a statement,

“Every unborn life is valuable, precious, and worthy of protection. Among other things, this law ensures that babies, including those with Down syndrome, are not targeted for death because of their genetic makeup. While common sense says that this law deserves everyone’s support, abortionists and others with a vested interest in seeing such abortions continue have sued to tear it down. The House speaker and Senate president have a direct interest in defending the bill the Legislature passed and working to ensure this lawsuit’s inhumane aims do not succeed.”

Bans on selective abortions come amidst the surprisingly common practice of aborting babies who test positive for genetic abnormalities. In Iceland, the nation aborts nearly every pre-born child that is diagnosed with Down Syndrome. In 2017, studies showed that only two babies with Down Syndrome are born each year, with parents aborting nearly 100 percent of babies who received a diagnosis of Down Syndrome. In Denmark, 98 percent of parents aborted their child if he or she had a diagnosis of Down Syndrome. The number was also high in France and the United States, where 77 percent and 67 percent, respectively, of unborn babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome are being aborted.

Some say that parents aren’t coming to the decision on their own. Genetic testing, as well as pessimistic prognoses communicated by doctors, as well as pressure from the cultural zeitgeist, are likely contributing to parents’ decision to abort. In many cases, it isn’t really the parents’ decision at all; often, doctors schedule an abortion without asking the parents, leaving many parents left to conclude that they should abort their child.

The narrative around Down syndrome babies is also manipulated. France banned an ad featuring children with Down Syndrome talking about being happy because the ad would, “disturb the conscience of women who had lawfully made different personal life choices.”

Sara Hart Weir, former president of the National Down Syndrome Society, said she was “deeply concerned” by Iceland’s decision to abort babies with Down syndrome. She explained,

“Women — even in the United States of America — are not receiving accurate, up-to-date information about Down syndrome from their healthcare providers — a vital issue we have advocated for many, many decades. In the U.S., people with Down syndrome continue to exceed expectations. Individuals with Down syndrome live independently, go to college, work in competitive jobs, get married, live to their full potential, and lead fulfilling lives.”

Multiple genetic abnormalities can be tested for before a child is born including cystic fibrosis, Hemophilia A, and sickle cell disease. Sometimes doctors encourage mothers to abort their child if they have a genetic condition such as Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, even though many children, such as Cody Dorman, live much longer and happier lives than doctors expect.

Abnormal gene or chromosome expression could include a large number of conditions. Cleft lip and cleft palate are thought to be a genetic disorder. Individuals who are intersex, such as those with Turner syndrome or Klinefelter syndrome, have chromosomal abnormalities which cause some physical issues. Despite this, these individuals are able to have some treatment or corrective actions that help them to live meaningful lives.

Cast all the euphemisms aside: What those challenging Arizona’s law are saying is that they want the right to abort children explicitly because they have a genetic abnormality. Or because they aren’t the preferred sex. Or they are the wrong race.

That is eugenics. Full stop.

But because Arizona’s attorney general refuses to do the job she was elected to do, ADF’s clients are forced to defend the duly enacted law and right of the state to restrict people from killing children based on their sex, race, or disability.

Where does this end? If you find out your child has a cleft palate or sickle cell disease, should you kill them? People with genetic differences and chromosomal challenges have the right to live. To say otherwise, or, worse, to challenge a law protecting preborn children with such abnormalities, shows that abortion supporters view these people as sub-human.

Pro-abortionists don’t want to protect the right to abortion for the cases of imminent fetal death, danger to the life of the mother, or any other exception to the rule that they cite. They want abortion at any point in pregnancy and for any reason. Why? So mothers can change their minds at the last minute — especially if the child is going to be less than ideal.

Our society has rejected the right to life and instead now worships at the altar of self. When two people engage in sexual activity, a baby could be formed. That baby does not lose its right to life simply because a mother doesn’t want him or her.

God’s Word tells us that the Lord does not view those with disabilities as lacking in value. Micah 4:6-7 says,

“‘In that day,’ declares the Lord,

‘I will assemble the lame

And gather the outcasts,

Even those whom I have afflicted.

I will make the lame a remnant

And the outcasts a strong nation,

And the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion

From now on and forever.’”

Jesus healed those with infirmities (Matthew 15:29-31) and even said that one man was born blind in order to glorify God (John 9:1-3). God’s Word also curses those who harm the blind and the deaf (Deuteronomy 27:18 and Leviticus 19:14).

God loves those with disabilities and special needs, just as much as He loves anyone else. We don’t always know why someone is born with a disability or a genetic anomaly, but we know that God will bring good out of it. For all these reasons, Christians must defend and protect the right to life for all of those made in God’s image. Arizona’s legislative leaders are to be commended for stepping up to try to do exactly that.

Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.

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