The wheels are moving on the vehicle to install abortion as a state constitutional right in Arizona.
Last week, Arizona for Abortion Access announced the start of its signature gathering process in order to give state voters an opportunity to vote on this ballot measure in November 2024. Just under 400,000 valid signatures – 383,923 to be exact – are required to achieve success on this front; however, many more signatures will be needed in order to account for the invalid entries that are gathered over the upcoming year.
The deadline to submit the signatures is July 3, 2024.
According to the overview of the initiative provided to the Arizona Secretary of State, the Arizona Abortion Access Act would “amend the Arizona Constitution to establish a fundamental right to abortion that the State may not deny, restrict or interfere with  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, regulation, policy, or practice 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  after that point in pregnancy if a health care provider determines an abortion is necessary to protect the life or the physical or mental 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.”
Dr. Candace Lew, the chair of Arizona for Abortion Access, issued a statement, saying, “We have written this ballot measure because Arizonans deserve the freedom to make our own decisions about pregnancy and abortion. These deeply personal decisions should be treated with compassion, dignity, and privacy, not political interference.”
One of the state’s top pro-life leaders, Cathi Herrod from the Center for Arizona Policy, quickly indicated her fierce opposition to this ballot initiative. She wrote, “Arizonans are not radical abortion supporters like those at today’s press conference, who called abortion ‘a blessing’ and praised California-style abortion policy like that in the proposed Arizona ballot measure. Abortion activists behind the proposition making abortion a fundamental right in Arizona, held a press conference today to launch their signature gathering campaign to get the initiative on the November 2024 ballot. The measure would tear down virtually all pro-life precautions and make it nearly impossible to regulate abortion.”
Herrod also explained how, if passed, this constitutional amendment would likely allow the likelihood of abortion at all stages of life in the womb, stating, “The broad exemption of ‘mental health’ of the mother after viability is widely understood, even in the courts, to mean virtually anything the abortion provider wants it to mean, including stress or anxiety. Even barbaric partial-birth abortion is legal under this exemption.”
She added, “In addition, the language prohibits virtually all safety precautions and commonsense regulations on abortion, including holding accountable the abortion provider for shoddy work or the sex trafficker who forces girls to have abortions to cover his crimes.”
Arizona for Abortion Access lists endorsements from the ACLU of Arizona, Affirm Sexual and Reproductive Health, Healthcare Rising Arizona, Arizona List, NARAL Arizona, and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona on its website.
On Wednesday, a post on the social media platform “X” appeared to show Democrat Attorney General Kris Mayes signing the petition to place this amendment on the 2024 ballot.
In August, Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs also weighed in on the initiative, saying, “As a lifelong advocate for Arizonans’ reproductive freedom, I’m thrilled that we will have the opportunity to make our voices heard next November. Once and for all, we will make clear that the government should not have a say in women’s personal healthcare decisions.”
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.
Arizona has two pathways for addressing abortion: an outright ban as old as the state itself, or the 15-week restriction codified in March.
On Friday, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled that Roe v. Wade invented a nonexistent constitutional right to abortion, wrongly forcing the states to surrender their authority on the subject. Arizona’s elected officials must decide whether to honor the state’s original outright ban on abortion or, instead, enforce the 15-week ban passed earlier this year. The latter will likely go into effect in the second-to-last week of September; the SCOTUS ruling will be effective near the end of next month.
The Senate’s Republican caucus declared in a press release that the original outright ban is in effect. However, the attorney general’s office hasn’t issued a formal statement of which law it will enforce. It explained in a statement that it’s conducting a legal review.
“This law, that is already on the books, bans most abortions, unless the procedure is necessary to save the life of a mother,” wrote the Senate majority. “Last year, the legislature amended this law, so that the mother who chooses to have an abortion will not face any punishment.”
Long before the legislature revised the ban, the Arizona Court of Appeals enjoined the law as unconstitutional in its 1973 ruling in Nelson v. Planned Parenthood Center of Tucson. That decision was directed by the SCOTUS precedent in Roe.
Insecurity over current law prompted Arizona’s abortion providers to suspend abortions until further notice. Chris Love, the chairwoman of Planned Parenthood Arizona’s advocacy arm who bragged about her husband assaulting a black Trump supporter at a pro-abortion rally last month, explained that they didn’t want providers to lose their licenses or police engaging with their patients.
Cathi Herrod, the president of the Center for Arizona Policy, spoke with “Conservative Circus” host James T. Harris about the viability of restoring Arizona’s original abortion ban.
Herrod opined that Arizona’s original abortion ban would stand because it preceded Roe v. Wade and that was never repealed after. Arizona outlawed abortion from 1901, prior to achieving statehood, up until it was required by the Supreme Court to allow abortions in 1973. The original ban is A.R.S. 13:3603, which only punishes abortion providers and not the pregnant women.
“I believe that is still good law and that it should be enforceable,” said Herrod.
Herrod clarified that the 1973 Arizona Court of Appeals decision rested on the SCOTUS decision at the time, indicating that the law was no longer enjoined as a result of Friday’s ruling.
Herrod also noted that even the most recent limitation on abortion — SB1164 banning abortions after 15 weeks, signed into law in March — stipulated that it didn’t repeal the state’s original abortion ban.
“This act does not: […] Repeal, by implication or otherwise, section 13-3602, Arizona Revised Statutes, or any other applicable state law regulating or restricting abortion,” reads the latest law.
In a Facebook post, Herrod added that the state’s original ban had greater enforceability than the 15-week restriction, unless a court enjoins that ban. In that case, Herrod stated that the 15-week restriction would be enforceable.
In response to claims that the legal system would punish expectant mothers for obtaining abortions, Herrod clarified that no state laws extended punishment to mothers. She noted that Governor Doug Ducey codified a repeal of a pre-Roe law punishing women who received abortions with jail.
Herrod predicted that there would be lawsuits on Arizona’s abortion bans. Pro-abortionists undertook legal action on Saturday, a day after the SCOTUS ruling. ACLU of Arizona, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Arizona Medical Association, and the National Council of Jewish Women Arizona filed an emergency motion in the Arizona District Court.
According to the latest data from the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS), there were nearly 13,300 abortions completed in 2020 — over 36 a day across the dozen facilities that provide abortions in the state. Over 85 percent of those who obtained abortions were unmarried. The greatest number of abortions occurred in women aged 20-24 years old: about 4,000. Over 1,200 of the abortions came from teenagers, from under 15 years old to 19 years old. Over 7,600 of the abortions came from women in the 20’s, and over 3,800 came from women in their 30’s.