July 23rd, 2024

Abortion-rights advocates in Arizona submit needed signatures to put the issue on November ballot

By Walter Berry And Anita Snow, The Associated Press on July 3, 2024.

PHOENIX (AP) – Arizona abortion-rights supporters on Wednesday turned in more than double the signatures needed to put the issue on November’s ballot in the key swing state.

Organizers say they submitted far above the 383,923 required from registered voters. The measure would add an amendment to the state constitution providing a fundamental right to an abortion if voters approve it.

County election officials have until Aug. 22 to verify whether enough of the petition signatures are valid and provide results to the Arizona secretary of state’s office.

Activists in two other states – Nebraska and Arkansas – also are planning to submit signatures this week for ballot measures on abortion.

Activists in two other states – Nebraska and Arkansas – also are planning to submit signatures this week for ballot measures about abortion. If successful, those states and Arizona will join five others where the issue is set to go before voters this year: Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Nevada and South Dakota.

The issue is a key part of Democratic campaigns in this year’s elections. Opponents of the proposed amendment say it goes too far and could lead to unlimited and unregulated abortions in Arizona. Supporters say a change in the state’s constitution is necessary to ensure that abortion rights cannot be easily erased by a high court decision or legislative vote.

The proposed constitutional amendment would allow abortions in Arizona until a fetus could survive outside the womb, typically around 24 weeks, with exceptions to save the parent’s life or to protect her physical or mental health. It would restrict the state from adopting or enforcing any law that would prohibit access to the procedure.

Arizona currently has a 15-week abortion ban in place.

Officials with Arizona for Abortion Access, a coalition that includes the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and Planned Parenthood of Arizona, will turn in hundreds of boxes of signed petitions to the Arizona secretary of state’s office Wednesday morning.

Arizona for Abortion Access spokesperson Dawn Penich said it was the most signatures ever submitted for a citizens initiative in state history.

“That was our goal from the get-go,” Penich said. “We started collecting signatures in September and October 2023 and saw how passionate people are about this issue.”

Arizona’s current abortion ban was signed into law in 2022 and includes exceptions in cases of medical emergencies and has restrictions on medication abortion. It also requires an ultrasound before an abortion is done, as well as parental consent for minors.

Two months ago, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld a 1864 abortion ban that permitted abortions only to save the mother’s life and provided no exceptions for survivors of rape or incest, but the Republican-controlled Legislature voted for a repeal of the Civil War-era ban, and Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs quickly signed. The 19th century law had been blocked in Arizona since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that guaranteed the constitutional right to an abortion nationwide.

In Nebraska, organizers of a petition to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution have expressed confidence that they’ve gathered enough signatures to get it on the November ballot.

Allie Berry, campaign manager for Protect Our Rights, and organizers of a competing petition effort to codify Nebraska’s 12-week abortion ban in the state constitution would not say how many signatures they had gathered ahead of Wednesday’s deadline.

Both efforts, as well as a third that would ban abortion at all stages by deeming embryos as people, must turn in around 123,000 valid signatures – or 10% of registered voters in the state – to qualify for the ballot.

The total abortion ban effort in Nebraska started eight weeks ago and is unlikely to gather the signatures it needs. The 12-week ban proposal – which kicked off in March thanks to a $500,000 donation from Nebraska Republican U.S. Sen. Pete Ricketts – has made a furious 11th-hour push to gather signatures but has telegraphed that it might not meet the threshold.

Supporters of an Arkansas proposal to scale back the state’s abortion ban face a Friday deadline to submit petitions to qualify for the November ballot.

The group behind the measure, Arkansans for Limited Government, said on Facebook and Instagram on Tuesday it still needed 8,200 signatures. The group must submit at least 90,704 valid signatures from registered voters to qualify.

The proposed constitutional amendment would prohibit the state from banning abortion within the first 18 weeks of pregnancy. The proposal includes exemptions for rape, incest, fatal fetal anomalies and to protect the mother’s life. It would also exempt abortions performed to protect the mother from a physical disorder, physical illness or physical injury.

Arkansas banned nearly all abortions under a law that took effect when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Arkansas’ ban currently exempts abortions only to protect the mother’s life in a medical emergency.

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Associated Press reporters Margery A. Beck in Omaha, Nebraska, and Andrew DeMillo in Little Rock, Arkansas, contributed to this report.

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