As many as eight states could vote on abortion-rights ballot initiatives in 2024.
On Aug. 8, a coalition of Arizona organizations announced the filing of the Arizona Abortion Access Act, which would place a proposed constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights on Arizona’s November 2024 general election ballot.
“Every Arizonan should have the freedom to make decisions about their bodies, their lives and their futures,” said Chris Love, senior advisor for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona. “We know the work for achieving reproductive freedom is an uphill battle, and this ballot initiative is the next critical step in our renewed drive to protect the health and freedom of our patients and our communities.”
The coalition is a new political action committee called Arizona for Abortion Access, led by ACLU of Arizona, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, NARAL Arizona, Affirm Sexual and Reproductive Health, Arizona List and Healthcare Rising Arizona.
“This initiative will bring together a vast coalition of Arizonans from across the state who will stand up and declare that we should be able to make our own healthcare decisions without interference from politicians,” said Arizona for Abortion Access chair Dr. Candace Lew.
As the law stands now, abortion is banned after 15 weeks of pregnancy in Arizona. But abortion law in the state has been a roller coaster since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022.
- The attorney general in Arizona at the time, Mark Brnovich, filed a motion in June 2022 to remove an injunction against a law first drafted during the Civil War—before Arizona was a state—that banned all abortions and imposed a two- to five-year prison sentence on anyone helping a woman receive an abortion.
- The legislature also passed a 15-week abortion ban in 2021, which was slated to take effect on Sept. 23, 2022, and subjected doctors to felony charges for performing an abortion.
- On July 11, 2022, a federal judge blocked the state’s 15-week ban from the previous year—then another judge reinstated the near-total pre-statehood ban on Sept. 23, 2022.
- On Oct. 7, 2022, an Arizona appellate court halted enforcement of the state’s near-total abortion ban, but then another state appeals court allowed the 15-week ban to go into effect on Dec. 30.
“Since the fall of Roe, we have seen our communities come together as a multigenerational and multiracial movement for reproductive freedom to fight for Arizonans’ fundamental rights, and this ballot initiative will continue to build on this momentum,” said Lew. “Thousands of Arizonans will power this grassroots effort to not only pose this question to voters but ensure it passes next November.”
The proposed Arizona amendment was announced the same day Ohio voters resoundingly rejected Issue 1, which would have made it harder to amend the state constitution—including a ballot measure that seeks to ensure the constitutional right to abortion, which will now officially appear on the ballot for Ohio voters in November. “Republicans should be ashamed of their efforts to subvert the will of voters,” NARAL Pro-Choice America said in a statement on Tuesday night about the vote. “Seeing this measure defeated is a victory for our fundamental rights and our democracy.”
Seven other states could join Arizona in voting on abortion-rights ballot initiatives in 2024. Already, the 2022 election season saw six ballot measures on abortion across the U.S.—and in all of them, the pro-abortion rights position passed decisively. These citizen-led initiatives en masse show that American voters are making the connection between abortion access and principles of democracy, and voting accordingly.
The proposed constitutional amendment states:
“Every individual has a fundamental right to abortion, and no law, regulation, policy or practice shall be enacted or enforced:
1. Denying, restricting or interfering with that right before fetal viability unless justified by a compelling state interest that is achieved by the least restrictive means.
2. Denying, restricting or interfering with an abortion after fetal viability that, in the good faith judgment of a treating health care professional, is necessary to protect the life or physical or mental health of the pregnant individual.
3. Penalizing any individual or entity for aiding or assisting a pregnant individual in exercising their right to abortion as provided in this section.”
The proposed amendment defines “compelling state interest” to be “a law or regulation enacted for the limited purpose of improving or maintaining the health of an individual seeking abortion care, consistent with accepted clinical standards or practice and evidence-based medicine, and that does not infringe on that individual’s autonomous decision-making.”
The amendment defines “fetal viability” as “the point in pregnancy when, in the good faith judgment of a treating health care professional and based on the particular facts of the case, there is a significant likelihood of the fetus’ sustained survival outside the uterus without the application of extraordinary medical measures.”
By defining these terms in relation to “accepted clinical standards” and “evidence-based medicine,” they appear designed to prevent abortion restrictions purporting to protect women’s health that are not based in medical science.
“When the Supreme Court took away our right to abortion last summer, that was another example of healthcare being taken away from us,” said Trinidad Rivera, Healthcare Rising Arizona member. “Now we have a chance to do something about it—a chance to take back our rights.”
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