Arkansas abortion ban may be scaled back, if group can collect enough signatures

Arkansas’ Attorney General on Tuesday approved the wording of a proposed ballot measure that would scale back the state’s abortion ban, clearing the way for supporters to begin gathering enough signatures to qualify for the November election.

Republican Attorney General Tim Griffin certified the proposal, which would prohibit the state from banning abortion within the first 18 weeks of pregnancy. The proposal includes exemptions for rape, incest, fatal fetal anomalies and to protect the mother’s life. It would also exempt abortions performed to protect the mother from a physical disorder, physical illness or physical injury.

Arkansas banned nearly all abortions under a law that took effect when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. That ban only exempts abortions to protect the mother’s life in a medical emergency.

Starting on Sunday in the northwest part of the state, Arkansans for Limited Government said it will start gathering signatures. The group must submit at least 90,704 valid signatures from registered voters — which is 6% of the votes cast in the 2022 Governor’s election — to qualify for the November ballot.

“Today, we are one step closer to restoring the freedom that was taken from individuals when Roe v. Wade was overturned,” Jim McHugh, the group’s treasurer, said in a statement. “We won’t stop until Arkansans can use their voice at the ballot box in November.”

In addition to the statewide requirement, the group will also have to submit a minimum number of signatures from 50 of Arkansas’ 75 counties.

Griffin had rejected a previous version of the proposed measure and said he couldn’t allow his opposition to abortion to be a factor.

“I am and have always been strongly pro-life, but the law does not allow me to consider my own personal views. I am guided by the law and the law alone,” Griffin said in a statement.

Abortion opponents criticized the proposal and said it would hamper the state’s ability to regulate the procedure by enshrining it in the state’s constitution.

“This is a radical amendment legalizing abortion in a way Arkansas has never seen before,” Jerry Cox, president of the Family Council, a conservative group that has pushed for abortion restrictions over the years.

Measures to protect access already have spots on this year’s ballot in Maryland and New York. Legislative efforts or petition drives are underway in a variety of other states. Voters in every state with an abortion-related ballot measure since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, effectively making abortion access a state-by-state question, have favored the side supported by abortion rights supporters.


Republished with permission from The Associated Press.

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