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Opinion issued aims to clear up ‘medical emergency’ in Arizona abortion laws

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(The Center Square) – Attorney General Kris Mayes issued an opinion as abortion policy in the state is likely to be on the ballot in November.

The 15-week law is still on the books in Arizona, and it was signed into law by former Republican Gov. Doug Ducey in 2022. The opinion, which was sent to four Democratic state lawmakers on Thursday, is meant to explain what can be considered a “medical emergency” under the law.

“First, she must exercise clinical judgment,” the opinions summary states of a physician who finds themselves caring for a patient in uncertain circumstances.

“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 [in providing an abortion] will create serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function,'” the summary continues.

It also goes on to define “good faith” as an authentic notion that the woman getting treatment is in an emergency.

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that a near-total ban from 1864 that was re-codified in 1977 could become enforceable. However, the law was repealed by the legislature and Gov. Katie Hobbs and will not go into effect.

Center for Arizona Policy President Cathi Herrod said in a statement that the opinion relates to “a term that hasn’t posed a problem since its inception in 1999.”

“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,” Herrod stated. She emphasized that the opinion considered medical emergencies to be “physical in nature, not mental health related.”

A likely proposition on the ballot in November could put abortion access up to “fetal viability” in the Arizona constitution, despite criticism that the amendment’s language would be too lax.

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