Arizona abortion rights coalition launches campaign to amend state constitution

Aug 8, 2023, 2:00 PM

A demonstrator holds a sign reading "My Body My Choice" at a Women's March rally outside the Arizon...

A demonstrator holds a sign reading "My Body My Choice" at a Women's March rally outside the Arizona State Capitol on Oct. 8, 2022, in Phoenix, Arizona. (File Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

(File Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — A coalition of Arizona groups officially launched a campaign Tuesday to ensure the right to abortions by amending the state constitution.

A new political action committee called Arizona for Abortion Access filed an application to gather petitions in an effort to get the Arizona Abortion Access Act on the ballot in 2024.

Supporters have until July 3, 2024, to collect and submit 383,923 valid signatures, according to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.

ACLU of Arizona, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, NARAL Arizona, Affirm Sexual and Reproductive Health, Arizona List, and Healthcare Rising Arizona are supporting Arizona for Abortion Access to sponsor the proposal.

“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 health care decisions without interference from politicians,” Dr. Candace Lew, the PAC’s chair, said in a press release.

What is Arizona’s current abortion law?

Doctors, but not patients, are subject to prosecution in Arizona if they perform abortions after 15 weeks of gestation, with exceptions for the health of the mother.

The law was signed by former Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, and went into effect last year in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, which previously guaranteed abortion rights at the federal level.

Democrat Katie Hobbs made abortion rights a key element of her successful run for governor last year. In a statement sent by her campaign on Tuesday, she expressed her support for the ballot initiative.

“I’ve been a lifelong advocate for Arizonans’ reproductive freedom, and I’ve repeatedly said that I do not believe the government or politicians should be in the business of making personal health care decisions,” she said

“I’m confident that Arizonans will vote for reproductive freedom next November, and I am grateful to all of the individuals and organizations who came together to make this happen.​”

In June, Hobbs issued an executive order preventing county attorneys from prosecuting abortion-related cases in the state.

What are opponents of the abortion rights ballot measure saying?

Anti-abortion activist Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy Action, said she thinks voters won’t approve the proposed constitutional amendment.

“Our initial viewing of the measure reveals an extreme power grab by an industry that sees no limits to abortion,” she said in a statement. “That is not where Arizonans are on the issue, and we are confident that Arizonans will reject this radical measure.”

The Arizona director of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America said the ballot measure goes against the values of the state’s residents.

“The ACLU and the abortion lobby’s extreme and barbaric vision for Arizona aligns with their own radical agenda to eliminate parental rights and eliminate any protection for the unborn, not what Arizonans believe,” Maria Birnbaum said in a statement. “This proposal is repugnant to the values of our state.”

What is in the Arizona Abortion Access Act?

Here is the full text of the Arizona Abortion Access Act overview provided on the initiative application:

“The Arizona Abortion Access Act amends the Arizona Constitution to establish a fundamental right to abortion that the State may not deny, restrict or interfere with [1] before the point in pregnancy when a health care provider determines that the fetus has a significant likelihood of survival outside the uterus without extraordinary medical measures unless justified by a compelling governmental interest (defined by the act as 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 of practice and evidence-based medicine, and that does not infringe on that individual’s autonomous decision-making) that is achieved by the least restrictive means, or [2] after that point in pregnancy if a health care provider determines an abortion is necessary to protect the life or health of the pregnant individual; and under which the State may not penalize individuals or entities for assisting a pregnant individual in exercising their right to abortion.”

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Arizona abortion rights coalition launches campaign to amend state constitution