Arizona abortion rights advocates submit signatures to put amendment on ballot

Washington — Abortion rights advocates in Arizona on Wednesday submitted more than double the signatures needed to place an initiative on the November ballot that would enshrine the right to abortion in the state’s constitution.

Organizers with Arizona for Abortion Access, the coalition behind the effort, said they submitted 823,685 signatures, far more than the 383,923 required to place an initiative proposing a constitutional amendment before voters.

The Arizona Constitution requires valid signatures from 15% of registered voters for ballot questions. The secretary of state and county officials will next process the petitions and determine whether enough valid signatures were gathered to put the proposal on the ballot. The deadline for completing that validation process is in August.

Called the Arizona Abortion Access Act, the initiative would amend the state constitution to establish the right to abortion. Under the plan, the state would not be allowed to restrict access to abortion before viability, generally around 22 to 24 weeks in a pregnancy. An abortion may be performed after viability if necessary to save the life of the mother, or her physical or mental health. The proposal prohibits the state from penalizing others for assisting a pregnant woman in exercising her right to abortion.

“This is the most signatures ever gathered for a ballot measure in Arizona history, which is a testament to the broad support among Arizona voters for restoring and protecting abortion access in Arizona,” Cheryl Bruce, campaign manager of Arizona for Abortion Access, said in a statement.

If the measure is cleared for the November ballot, Arizona would join at least five other states where voters will decide whether to amend their respective state constitutions to recognize the right to abortion. Those states are Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Nevada and South Dakota.

Efforts are underway in several other states, including Arkansas, Missouri, Montana and Nebraska, to get the issue on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022 and cleared the way for states to enact laws restricting access to abortion, the issue has become a motivator for voters, and Democrats are hoping that remains the case for this year’s general election

In the wake of the high court’s decision, the abortion rights position has succeeded in seven states where the issue was squarely before voters. In Kansas, Kentucky and Montana, anti-abortion rights proposals failed. Meanwhile, in California, Michigan, Ohio and Vermont, measures to enshrine access in state constitutions were successful.

Abortion is banned in Arizona after 15 weeks of pregnancy. But the state recently became the center of a fierce ballot over access after its supreme court ruled that an 1864 law outlawing the procedure, except when necessary to save the mother’s life, could be enforced.

The decision set off a frenzy of legislative activity in the state, as lawmakers moved swiftly to repeal the Civil War-era law, which remained on the books but hadn’t been enforced since the 1973 Roe decision legalizing abortion nationwide. Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, signed a bill in May unwinding the pre-Roe ban, though it won’t take effect until 90 days after the end of the state legislative session, which adjourned last month.

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