Updated Apr 21, 2024 - Health

Abortion-rights groups get signal boost after Florida, Arizona rulings

Abortion-rights activists hold a protest on April 17 in Phoenix. Photo: Rebecca Noble/Getty Images

Crucial swing states where abortion is on the ballot in November are seeing a surge in voter registration, volunteers and donations, according to several abortion-rights activists who spoke with Axios.

The big picture: Democrats have seized on abortion as a winning issue in the post-Roe era, and it's made some states, including Arizona, focal points for 2024.

  • "This is truly a galvanizing moment," Planned Parenthood Action Fund spokesperson Olivia Cappello told Axios, adding that energy around the issue is renewed.
  • "We know that abortion bans across the country have made people angry and that people are already seeing the impact of them in their communities."
  • Helping people understand that their vote matters and they have the opportunity to directly influence policy is critical, Cappello said.

In Arizona, where the state Supreme Court upheld an 1864 near-total abortion ban, with exceptions only to save the mother's life, Arizona for Abortion Access has seen an influx of grassroots campaign donors, new volunteer sign-ups and signatures on its ballot measure petition.

  • If passed, the measure would permit abortions up to the point of fetal viability, around 24 weeks of pregnancy, which had been Arizona law before the end of Roe.
  • Organizers said they've exceeded the signature threshold needed to get the measure on the November ballot, but it still needs to be certified.

"Since the ruling, we have seen a flood of new activity," Cheryl Bruce, campaign manager of Arizona for Abortion Access, told Axios. "There's no fence left for people to sit on. So we are seeing increased enthusiasm."

  • Indivisible, a member of the Arizona for Abortion Access coalition, also said sign-ups for their door-to-door signature gathering and electoral outreach program spiked 50% within 24 hours of the ruling.
  • "Arizonans, now more than ever, know that we need this constitutional amendment to protect abortion access here in the state," Bruce said.
  • "The courts and politicians just cannot be trusted to [do so]."

In Florida, where a six-week ban on abortion will take effect next month, organizers are working to ensure it won't remain for long thanks to a ballot measure to enshrine access in the state constitution.

  • "I don't believe for a second that this is what Floridians wanted," Sarah Parker, executive director of grassroots organization Voices of Florida, told Axios.

Between the lines: Florida's future as a safe haven for reproductive care has broader consequences for the surrounding states with tougher restrictions.

  • While Floridians now need to prepare for the Yes on 4 campaign, Parker said, "We also need to prepare to get patients the care that they need and get them the education that they need."
  • Thousands of reproductive rights activists rallied in the state earlier this month in support of the voter referendum.

In Nevada, organizers have been gathering signatures to get the Nevada Right to Reproductive Freedom Amendment on the ballot, and they said they've exceeded the number needed.

  • The measure would protect the right to an abortion in a state where the procedure is already legal up until 24 weeks of pregnancy. If it passes in 2024, it will have to be on the ballot again in 2026 before it can be added to the state constitution.
  • Lindsey Harmon, president of Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom president, told Axios: "I think [voters] are looking to support and lift up champions and candidates that support abortion access."
  • Harmon also noted that the coalition is seeing more young people and people of color sign up to vote.

In Pennsylvania, organizers have attempted to get abortion measures on the ballot but hurdles make it unlikely.

Flashback: Organizers have taken lessons from Ohio's successful ballot measure last year.

  • Cappello said it "was very much about meeting people where they are" — particularly through storytelling.
  • "Voters could see what harm the state's abortion ban had caused and the necessity of protecting their reproductive freedom with this abortion amendment," she said.

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