Home>Abortion>AG Mayes Issues Opinion on ‘Medical Emergency’ Abortions

Kris Mayes speaking with attendees at the at the Arizona Commerce Authority in Phoenix, September 15, 2022. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

AG Mayes Issues Opinion on ‘Medical Emergency’ Abortions

Attempts to clarify existing law ahead of possible November ballot measure

By Steve Kirwan, July 3, 2024 5:00 am

Arizona’s Democrat Attorney General, Kris Mayes, issued an opinion on June 27, 2024, attempting to clarify what constitutes a “medical emergency” related to the 15-week abortion law signed into law in 2022 by then Governor Doug Ducey. The opinion, dispelling the myth that a woman must be “on her deathbed” to receive an emergency abortion, is partly intended to shield doctors from legal hot water for providing such medical procedures.

Mayes’ opinion, sent to members of the legislature’s Democrat leadership, addresses how an attending physician needs to handle such a situation. It read, “First, she must exercise clinical judgment. Second, the treating physician must determine in good faith that, based on her clinical judgment, either ‘a condition … so complicates the medical condition of a pregnant woman as to necessitate the immediate abortion of her pregnancy to avert her death,’ or ‘a delay will create serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.'”

It continues by defining “good faith” as an “authentic notion that the woman getting treatment is in an emergency.”

Cathi Herrod, President of the Center for Arizona Policy, released a statement asserting that Mayes’ opinion addresses “a term that hasn’t posed a problem since its inception in 1999.”

She added, “Mayes puts to rest a repeated false claim that a woman would have to be near death before the doctor could perform an abortion. Even Mayes agrees that is not the case at all. Doctors can perform an abortion on a woman who would suffer significant bodily harm without it.”

She insists that the opinion defines such medical emergencies as “physical in nature, not mental health-related,” a distinction critical to the 2022 law.

Pro-abortion proponents are supporting a likely ballot proposition planned for the November election that could amend the Arizona constitution to allow abortion access up to “fetal viability.” Pro-life opponents decry that language on the grounds that, at best, the amendment’s language is ambiguous and, at worst, would codify late-term abortions.

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