Mon. Apr 22nd, 2024

Battle over abortion heats up in Arizona — and could be on the 2024 ballot

By 37ci3 Mar2,2024


PHOENIX – As abortion rights opponents marched through the streets of Arizona’s capital on Friday, organizers and activists on both sides of the issue are focusing on Election Day.

There are abortion rights groups seeker to put on the November ballot a constitutional amendment that would create a “fundamental right” to access abortion care until fetal viability, or about the 24th week of pregnancy.

The event’s placement could help boost Democratic turnout in the state among both the battleground presidential campaign and the Senate key, a potential win for President Joe Biden, who trailed former President Donald Trump in the last Arizona poll.

In the nearly two years since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down national abortion protections, abortion rights advocates have so far won. every race where the issue appears directly on the ballot. Seeking to bolster support for reproductive rights, such groups are working to enshrine abortion rights in state constitutions this fall in 13 states.

But as these efforts expand, so does the energy and organization behind efforts to combat them. And the proposal faces meaningful opposition from conservatives in Arizona.

Those passions were on display Friday at the Arizona Right For Life March, where thousands gathered to celebrate their anti-abortion ideals. Shofars blew, drums beat, and a Catholic priest chanted “ole, ole, ole, ole, pro-life, pro-life” through a megaphone. Activists and organizers were joined by hundreds of children from Arizona.

Alex Tabet/NBC News

Sister Maria Rose Metzger, a Dominican Sister of Mary, mother of the Eucharist, and high school teacher, brought many of her students to the March for Life.

“Young people get it,” he said. “They understand that life is important. They understand that they will not be here [if] their mother did not say yes to the gift of life.”

Metzger says faith guides her life, but she says science opposes abortion rights. “Life begins at conception – it’s actually a science. It’s not a matter of religion or faith,” he said.

portrait of religious Dominican sister
Sister Maria Rose Metzger is a Dominican Sister of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. She’s also a high school teacher and brought her students to the March for Life in Arizona on Friday.Alexander Tabet / NBC News

Under current Arizona law, abortion is legal up to the 15th week of pregnancy, except to save the life of the mother, except for rape or consanguinity.

A ballot measure proposed by reproductive rights groups would extend the period before abortion restrictions kick in and expand the scope of exemptions.

The group leading the effort to see it enacted — Arizona for Abortion — needs to collect about 384,000 valid signatures by July 3. Its leaders know the road ahead will be difficult.

“We’re on track to more than double the signatures we need, which puts us between 700,000 and 800,000 signatures,” Arizona abortion spokesman Chris Love said. “It’s very easy to challenge signatures in Arizona.”

Chris Love in front of the laptop,
Chris Love, spokesperson for Arizona Abortion Access, was one of the chief architects of the Arizona Abortion Access Act.Alex Tabet/NBC News

In January, the group said it had collected 250,000 signatures.

Arizona Right To Life is among the many groups opposing the efforts of Love’s coalition. The organization said they had a team of lawyers waiting to verify each signature submitted by the team behind the ballot measure in July. Until then, the group says, the first step is to educate Arizonans about the Arizona Abortion Access Act — the official name of the ballot proposal — to discourage them from signing petitions.

Lori Zee Gray smiles
Lori Zee Gray, Board Member, Arizona Right To Life.Alex Tabet/NBC News

“We’re basically giving them the information that’s in the Arizona Abortion Access Act,” said Lori Zee Gray, a board member at Arizona Right To Life, which is responsible for coordinating volunteers for the Opt Out Initiative. According to him, the main conversation is “by signing this petition, you support abortion until birth.”

Love and other proponents of the measure note that “not openly in a measure lasting up to 24 weeks, except when, in the good faith judgment of a treating health care professional, it is necessary to protect the person’s life or physical or mental health. pregnant person.”

Zee Gray’s Rhetorical Framework echoes well-known RepublicansIncluding Trump, who has long accused Democrats of supporting late-term abortions and abortion on demand. It’s a message they hope will counter vote-gathering efforts and Democratic candidates who support abortion rights this fall.

Zee Gray’s group focused heavily on the proposal’s exclusion after fetal viability to protect a pregnant woman’s “mental health,” arguing that it could be subject to a broad interpretation that could be applied to allow abortion care.

“It’s empty. It’s broad,” said Terry LaFrance, a representative of the “It Goes Too Far” campaign, which is also trying to stop the Arizona Abortion Access Act.

Arizona for Abortion Access has approximately 3,000 volunteers statewide. Arizona Right to Life is training volunteers for the “Opt Out” initiative, which aims to discourage voters from signing a ballot initiative. Zee Gray says they have over 950 volunteers statewide. And LaFrance’s book, It Goes Far, says she has more than 500 volunteers nationwide.

If she succeeds on the Arizona ballot for abortion, Zee Gray says that won’t stop Arizona Right to Life.

“In fact, if it gets signatures and gets on the ballot, we’re going into voter education mode, where we’re going to reach out to faith voters, pro-life voters, and tell them to keep sharing. is information that reflects the truth about the act”.

Alex Tabet/NBC News

Results of the presidential race

Big political consequences come with the battle over the measure.

“The abortion initiative could be what propels Joe Biden to victory in Arizona, probably his only hope,” Arizona GOP political consultant Barrett Marson said. He predicted the measure could be Biden’s “saving grace.”

The same dynamic could play out in a Senate race, with Senate control likely in the balance.

Incumbent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who is an independent, has not announced whether she will run for re-election. Democratic Republican Ruben Gallego, an abortion rights supporter, and Republican Kari Lake, abortion opponent who emphasized different positions He competed in his competitions for public office.

Marson says the proposal would “probably only help Ruben Gallego and only hurt Kari Lake.”

The Arizona Supreme Court decision on abortion is also relevant to abortion voting 1864 abortion ban It’s still on the books, making it a felony punishable by two to five years in prison for anyone who assists or assists a woman in obtaining an abortion. Democratic state Attorney General Chris Mayes is not enforcing the law, but future officials could keep the laws on the books. The decision can be revoked at any time.

Love, for Abortion Opportunity Arizona, said the decision won’t change her group’s strategy until November. But the decision to support the law could change the mindset of voters heading into November, he added.

“I think what’s going to change is the voters, because I think it’s going to push them to protect abortion in Arizona,” Love said.



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By 37ci3

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