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Monday, February 26, 2024
Feb. 26, 2024

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Advocates aim to put abortion on 2024 ballots

After Ohio OKs protections, dozen states are targeted

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After Ohio voters on Tuesday approved a constitutional amendment protecting the right to abortion and other forms of reproductive health care, advocates on both sides of the issue are looking at how they can get support on 2024 ballots in at least a dozen states.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that had protected abortion rights nationally, voters in all seven states that held a statewide vote have backed access. That includes Ohio, where voters Tuesday enshrined abortion access in the state constitution.

Constitutional amendments to protect access are already on the ballots for 2024 in Maryland and New York.

Questions are being considered for several other states — some to protect access and some to limit or ban it.

Here’s what’s happening in the states.

Washington

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee in 2022 pushed for lawmakers to add a question to the ballot to protect abortion access, but so far the legislature has not advanced it.

Currently, abortion is legal until viability.

Arizona

Abortion access advocates want to amend the state constitution to protect access to abortion until the fetus is viable, generally considered to be around 24 weeks gestational age or later, to protect the life or physical or mental health of the woman.

Supporters have until July 3 to collect nearly 384,000 valid signatures to get the measure on the ballot.

Abortion is banned after 15 weeks of pregnancy, but the Democratic governor signed an executive order in June that bars county prosecutors from bringing abortion-related cases.

Colorado

Colorado has dueling efforts — one from abortion rights advocates and one from opponents.

Neither side has settled on specific language, but abortion rights advocates want a constitutional amendment that would keep the state from banning abortion and would overturn a 1984 amendment that let the government prohibit insurance coverage for abortion.

Opponents want to ban abortion throughout pregnancy. Colorado currently has no state laws barring abortion at any point in pregnancy.

Both sides have until Aug. 5 to gather more than 124,000 signatures. Any measure would need at least 55 percent of votes to pass.

Florida

Abortion rights advocates back a constitutional amendment to reverse laws restricting abortion.

Abortion in Florida is now banned at 15 weeks, based on a law that went into effect last year with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature. DeSantis, a Republican candidate for president, this year signed into law a measure to ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions to save the life of the woman and in cases of rape or incest. The 15-week ban is facing a legal challenge and, in an unusual twist, if it is upheld the six-week ban will go into effect.

The proposed amendment would undo both bans and require that abortion be available until fetal viability, around 24 weeks.

To get it on the ballot, supporters are required to gather nearly 900,000 signatures by Feb. 1.

The amendment would need 60 percent of votes to pass.

Iowa

Both chambers of the Republican-controlled Legislature have approved an amendment that would declare that there’s no right to abortion in the state constitution. Now it needs final approval in the 2023-24 term to go before voters.

This has been at the heart of legal battles already in Iowa.

The state Supreme Court in 2019 upheld a lower court decision that there is a right to abortion in the state constitution. But in 2022, after membership of the court changed, the court reversed itself.

During a special session in July, Republicans passed a new law to ban abortion after cardiac activity can be detected — about six weeks into pregnancy and before women often realize they’re pregnant. It was in effect for a few days before a court put enforcement on hold.

Maryland

Lawmakers have put an amendment on the ballot that includes the “fundamental right” to reproductive freedom. Abortion is legal in Maryland until viability.

Missouri

Intense court battles have already emerged over proposed ballot measures in Missouri, where abortion is currently banned at all stages of pregnancy.

Abortion-rights advocates are pushing for a constitutional amendment that would bar the government from infringing on a person’s right to reproductive freedom or ban abortion in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Moderate Republicans are working on an amendment that would be less restrictive than the current law, but not allow the same amount of access the other abortion rights groups want.

Backers of both approaches have submitted several versions of their amendments and will each eventually select one to pursue.

To get it on the ballot, they need more than 171,000 signatures by May 5.

Nebraska

Abortion rights advocates have submitted language to Nebraska’s secretary of state for a ballot question that would expand abortion access.

The exact language has not been approved or made public.

The state bans abortion after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy in most cases.

At least 7 percent of registered voters statewide must sign a petition by July 5 to put the question on the ballot.

The secretary of state approved ballot language for a referendum to ban abortion throughout pregnancy with a state law, but the backer of the amendment said he had decided not to pursue a petition drive for 2024.

Nevada

Voters could decide on adding an amendment to establish reproductive freedom, including for decisions about abortion.

A ballot measure pushed by abortion-rights advocates would still allow the state to regulate abortion after viability with exceptions after that for the life and physical and mental health of the woman. The measure would reinforce the state’s current policy that allows abortion up to 24 weeks, but further enshrine it in the state constitution and make it more difficult to overturn.

To put the question on the 2024 ballot, supporters have to gather more than 102,000 signatures by June 26.

New York

Lawmakers have already placed a question on the 2024 ballot asking voters to add “pregnancy, pregnancy outcomes and reproductive health care and autonomy” as areas where discrimination would be barred. The measure does not mention abortion by name, though it does seek to protect access in a state where it’s now legal until viability.

Pennsylvania

Republican lawmakers might push to add a question to the ballot to amend the state constitution to declare that it doesn’t grant the right to an abortion, or a right to a taxpayer-funded abortion.

Both chambers of the legislature approved the question once, and would need to do it again to get it on the ballot.

There’s drama around whether that will happen during the 2023-24 legislative session. Democrats currently control the lower legislative chamber with a one-vote advantage. As long as that remains the case, the proposal isn’t expected to pass. But it’s possible there could be a vacancy and special election that would flip control — and potentially give new life to the proposed amendment.

Currently, abortion is legal in the state until 24 weeks’ gestational age.

South Dakota

Voters in South Dakota could be asked to amend the state constitution to roll back the state’s ban on abortion at all stages of pregnancy with an exception only for the life of the pregnant woman.

Under a proposed constitutional amendment, the state could not restrict abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy. It could in the second trimester, except when abortion is necessary to preserve the life or physical or emotional health of the woman. In the third trimester, the state could ban abortion — except when it’s needed to save the woman’s life.

Supporters have until May 7 to gather more than 35,000 signatures to put it on the ballot.

Judges have told two counties to stop restricting gathering signatures on county courthouse campuses.

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