Apr 18, 2024 - Politics

"I have no intention to break an established law": Arizona doctors unlikely to perform illegal abortions

A woman speaking at a podium.

DeShawn Taylor at a Women's March rally in Phoenix on Jan. 20. Photo: Caitlin O'Hara/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Attorney General Kris Mayes' promise that she won't prosecute doctors for violating the soon-enforceable abortion ban likely isn't enough to persuade doctors to break the law, Arizona abortion providers tell Axios Phoenix.

Why it matters: Even with potential legislative and legal interventions, the 1864 near-total abortion ban will likely be the law of the land for at least a few months in Arizona.

Catch up quick: Gov. Katie Hobbs issued an executive order last year barring Arizona's 15 county attorneys from prosecuting abortion-related crimes and centralizing that authority under the attorney general's office.

  • Mayes has said she will not prosecute doctors who perform abortions.
  • She said in a statement Wednesday that the earliest the 19th century ban would go into effect is June 8, but she will "fight like hell" to prevent that from happening.
  • She also said she's discussed the possibility of obtaining emergency licenses for Arizona providers with the California attorney general.

Reality check: "I have no intention to break an established law just because an attorney says they're not going to prosecute," Ronald Yunis, a physician at Acacia Women's Center, told Axios Phoenix.

  • Yunis noted a new attorney general could be elected in two years and decide to retroactively prosecute.

Zoom in: DeShawn Taylor, a physician at Desert Star Institute for Family Planning, told us she is appreciative of Mayes' efforts but is working with her board to decide whether it's wise to continue offering abortion care.

  • "Each of us providers will have to make a determination as to whether or not that is a risk we're willing to take," Taylor said.

What we're watching: The 1864 law specifies that anyone who acts "with intent thereby to procure the miscarriage" shall be imprisoned.

  • Yunis said he fears that he could be prosecuted under the broad language just by advising a patient to travel to seek abortion care.
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