Aug 8, 2023 - Politics

Campaign to put abortion rights on the ballot in Arizona begins

Illustration of two ballots creating the shape of a medical cross

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Abortion rights advocates filed a long-anticipated ballot measure Tuesday that would expand access to abortion and protect those rights in the Arizona Constitution.

Details: The Arizona Abortion Access Act would permit abortions up to the point of fetal viability, around 24 weeks of pregnancy, which was the law in Arizona prior to last year.

  • Abortions would be permitted past that point to "protect the life or physical or mental health" of the mother.
  • The measure would also prohibit any law penalizing a person who helps someone get an abortion.
  • The proposed constitutional amendment states: "Every individual has a fundamental right to abortion."

Between the lines: The coalition behind the proposal includes: Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, Healthcare Rising Arizona, the ACLU of Arizona, NARAL Arizona, Affirm Sexual and Reproductive Health and Arizona List.

Flashback: A state law signed by then-Gov. Doug Ducey last year prohibits abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

  • A 2021 report by the Arizona Department of Health Services found that 91.9% of abortions in the state were performed within the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, while 7.6% were performed in the 14-20 week range.

Zoom in: The campaign will need to collect at least valid 383,923 signatures from voters by July 3, 2024, to qualify for the general election ballot.

  • Bré Thomas, CEO of the reproductive and sexual health nonprofit Affirm, estimated in June the campaign will likely need to raise $40 million to $50 million.

The intrigue: Since the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade last year, Democrats have viewed abortion rights as a winning issue, and a ballot measure could help drive turnout that will aid Democratic candidates in Arizona's 2024 election.

What they're saying: Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who campaigned on abortion rights last year, said in a press statement she's "thrilled that Arizonans are going to have the opportunity to make their voices heard" on the issue and was "confident they'll support a constitutional right to abortion​."

The other side: Cathi Herrod, president and CEO of the Center for Arizona Policy, which has for years played a leading role in passing anti-abortion legislation at the state Capitol, called the proposal a "radical ballot measure" funded by outside money and special interests that represents "the abortion industry's effort to safeguard its business."

  • Herrod had not yet reviewed the language and said in a press statement she would have further comment once she did.

Context: Following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a judge allowed a pre-statehood ban on nearly all abortions to go into effect. But the Arizona Court of Appeals later ruled that doctors couldn't be prosecuted under the territorial era law, allowing the 15-week ban enacted last year to become the law of the land.


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