July 21st, 2024

Abortion-rights advocates in Nebraska 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) – Organizers of a measure to protect abortion rights in Nebraska said Wednesday that they collected enough signatures to get on the November ballot.

Officials with Protect Our Rights, which seeks to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution, said they turned in 207,000 signatures to the Nebraska secretary of state’s office, which will go through the process of validating that each signature belongs to a registered voter in Nebraska over the next several weeks.

Organizers of an effort to preserve Nebraska’s current 12-week abortion ban, passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature last year, as a constitutional amendment planned to release details later Wednesday about their efforts to collect signatures.

Petition initiatives seeking a constitutional amendment must collect enough signatures to equal 10% of registered voters in the state, or about 123,000. Additionally, 5% of the signatures must come from 38 of the state’s 93 counties – a requirement adopted years ago to ensure rural voters have some say in the petition process.

Another petition effort that would ban abortion at all stages by deeming embryos as people began collecting signatures only eight weeks ago and was not expected to meet the threshold.

Organizers of the competing efforts have accused each other of misleading voters about the scope of their petitions in an effort to gather as many signatures as possible.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

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 823,685 signatures, 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.

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.

Democrats have made abortion rights a central message since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022 and it is a key part of their efforts in this year’s elections. Activists in Nebraska and Arkansas also are planning to submit signatures this week for abortion ballot measures. In five other states, the issue already is set to go before voters this year: Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Nevada and South Dakota.

Arizona currently has a 15-week abortion ban. The proposed amendment would allow abortions until a fetus could survive outside the womb, typically around 24 weeks, with exceptions to save the mother’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.

Opponents 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 court decision or legislative vote.

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

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.”

In April, 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 since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that eliminated constitutional protections for abortion.

The current 15-week 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.

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 only 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 that it still needed 8,200 signatures out of the 90,704 required.

The proposed constitutional amendment would prohibit the state from banning abortion within the first 18 weeks of pregnancy. It includes exceptions 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’ current ban exempts abortions only to protect the mother’s life in a medical emergency.


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


This story has been corrected to reflect that the Arizona Supreme Court decision upholding the 1864 abortion ban was in April, not two months ago.

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