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Some medical providers say it's unclear when they can save a pregnant woman's life

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich says an Arizona law banning abortions that dates back to 1901 will be enforced. There’s only one exception to the ban, and it’s only to save the life of the mother. What does that mean in 2022? 

Dr. Laura Mercer, the chair of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in Arizona, said it’s unclear. 

"Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion and ambiguity and fear for practicing doctors — both OB-GYNs, as well as emergency room doctors, that I've talked to — and other folks from other specialties," she explained. "Because of the ambiguity of when somebody's life is truly threatened."

Which begs the question: How long do we need to wait? How close does she need to be to dying before we're allowed to legally intervene? And who will make that determination? 

"That's the question," she said. "And I think that providers at two o'clock in the morning because it's always two o'clock in the morning when these horrible things happen, are left with trying to decide you if they are willing to risk their medical license and or jail time, in order to help the person in front of them."

Arizona also has a 15-week ban that Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law in March. He says it takes precedence over the territorial law. But that 15-week ban did not overturn the 1901 law.

Senior field correspondent Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.