AG Kris Mayes issues opinion clarifying Arizona abortion law

Jun 28, 2024, 11:21 AM | Updated: 11:21 am

Medical emergencies clarification Arizona abortion...

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes issued an official opinion on medical emergencies as they relate to abortion law on June 27, 2024. (AG Mayes photo)

(AG Mayes photo)

PHOENIX — Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes issued an opinion to clarify what medical emergencies allow doctors to perform abortions on Thursday.

Mayes said she issued the opinion after concerned doctors and lawmakers asked her to clear up confusion about the state abortion law.

While the law bans abortions after 15 weeks, it includes an exception for medical emergencies later in the term.

However, some health care providers wanted a better definition of what constitutes a medical emergency out of fear of unwittingly violating the law.

“An ER doctor recently said to me, ‘Kris, how close to death do I have to let a woman get before I can treat her and be confident that I won’t be prosecuted?’ This is an outrageous position for any doctor to be in in the United States of America and in Arizona,” Mayes said during a press conference Thursday. “But it is the reality that many providers face on a daily basis in Arizona.”

How does Arizona abortion law define medical emergencies?

State statute contains the following definition:

“‘Medical emergency’ means a condition that, on the basis of the physician’s good faith clinical judgment, so complicates the medical condition of a pregnant woman as to necessitate the immediate abortion of her pregnancy to avert her death or for which a delay will create serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.”

Mayes’ opinion essentially says that if a doctor determines that the situation is an emergency, then the case falls under the exception.

“The physician’s clinical judgment that an abortion was warranted cannot be second-guessed after the fact,” she wrote, adding that prosecution would only be warranted if the doctor was found to be acting in bad faith.

During the press conference, Mayes said a doctor can make that call before a woman becomes seriously ill.

“Once a treating physician forms a good faith clinical judgement that one of these circumstances is satisfied, the statute allows her to provide an immediate abortion,” Mayes said. “She need not wait for the patient to deteriorate or inch closer to death.”

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AG Kris Mayes issues opinion clarifying Arizona abortion law