July 17th, 2024

Abortion measures could be on Arizona and Nebraska ballots after organizers submit signatures


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

FILE - Volunteer signature gatherers Judy Robbins, left, and Lara Cerri, center, collect Grace Harders' signature on a petition to enshrine the right to abortion in Arizona's consitution, April 10, 2024, in Phoenix. Abortion rights advocates are set to deliver about 800,000 petition signatures Wednesday, July 3, 2024, in hopes of getting abortion rights on the November general election ballot. (AP Photo/Anita Snow, File)

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

In Nebraska, organizers of competing abortion measures said that they collected enough signatures to go to voters. That would make Nebraska the only state where an abortion-restricting measure could be on the November ballot

Arizona 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 Arkansas also plan to submit signatures this week for an abortion ballot measure. 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, officials with Protect Our Rights said they turned in 207,000 signatures in their effort to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. Organizers of SBA Pro-Life America’s competing petition effort to codify Nebraska’s 12-week abortion ban in the state constitution said they submitted 205,000 signatures.

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

An organizer did not return a call about he total abortion ban effort in Nebraska. That started only eight weeks ago. .

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.

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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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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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