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Abortion rights could find their way on ballots in Arizona, Nebraska

Robert Besser
6 Jul 2024

PHOENIX, Arizona: Abortion rights could find their way onto the ballots in November's election in Arizona and Nebraska after organizers in the two states said they turned in far more signatures than required for the measure.

There could be two vital questions in Nebraska. Like the Arizona proposal, the first would add a right to abortion to the state constitution. The other would enshrine Nebraska's current ban on most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Election officials of both states need to certify the signatures before they are added to ballots.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, Democrats have made abortion rights a pivotal message, and it is a critical factor in this year's elections. Arkansas activists are still working towards a July 5 deadline to make the ballot there.

Voters in Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Nevada and South Dakota will decide on the issue this year. Advocates say New York also has a measure to protect abortion access.

In Arizona, organizers said they submitted 823,685 signatures, far more than the 383,923 required from registered voters. Election officials have until August 22 to verify whether they have enough valid signatures and forward them to the Arizona Secretary of State's office.

Since Arizona has a 15-week abortion ban, the 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. The state would be restricted from adopting or enforcing any law prohibiting access to the procedure.

However, opponents say it goes too far and could lead to unlimited and unregulated abortions in Arizona.

In April, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld an 1864 ban that permitted abortions only to save the mother's life and provided no exceptions for survivors of rape or incest. However, the Republican-controlled Legislature voted to repeal the Civil War-era ban, and Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs signed it. Since the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization that eliminated constitutional protections for abortion, the 19th-century law had been blocked.

The current 15-week ban was signed into law in 2022 and includes exceptions in cases of medical emergencies and restricts medication abortion. It also requires an ultrasound before an abortion and parental consent for minors.

In Nebraska, officials with Protect Our Rights said they managed 207,000 signatures. Organizers of SBA Pro-Life America's competing petition effort said they submitted more than 205,000 signatures.

The state requires more than 123,000 valid signatures - or 10 percent of registered voters to qualify for the ballot.

A third measure may not make the ballot. That one would ban abortion at all stages of pregnancy by deeming embryos as people.

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