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Advocates in Nebraska Want the Right to an Abortion on the 2024 Ballot

The initiative seeks to “ensure Nebraskans can get the care they need with compassion and privacy,” one advocate said.

NOW activists shield patients from anti-abortion activists outside the Abortion and Contraceptic Clinic in Omaha, Nebraska, in August, 2009.

Abortion rights organizers in Nebraska have officially launched a campaign to put abortion protections on the ballot in 2024.

The initiative is led by a coalition called Protect Our Rights, which includes the advocacy organizations Planned Parenthood North Central States, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nebraska, I Be Black Girl, and the Women’s Fund of Omaha.

“Our constitutional amendment is informed both by medical experts and where most Nebraskans are on this issue,” Ashlei Spivey, an executive committee member of Protect Our Rights, said in a statement. “Unlike the state officials working to totally ban abortion, we’re elevating the voices and lived experiences of Nebraskans who believe that pregnant people should be able to access needed care with compassion and privacy, free from political interference.”

Abortion in Nebraska is currently banned after twelve weeks, and patients are forced to wait 24 hours after counseling to obtain an abortion. In May 2023, abortion advocates challenged the twelve-week abortion ban in state court, but the legal challenge was dismissed. In August, the Planned Parenthood of the Heartland appealed that decision.

“We’ve filed ballot initiative language to ensure Nebraskans can get the care they need with compassion and privacy, and without government interference,” a coalition statement says. “We know that Nebraska lawmakers won’t stop until they’ve completely stripped Nebraskans of their access to essential abortion care, which is why it’s time to protect our rights.”

After Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022,12 states enacted near-total bans on abortions and another 12 severely limited abortion access. In 2022, the Nebraska legislature attempted to pass a near-total ban on abortion, but it failed to pass. However, the Guttmacher Institute has warned that Nebraska lawmakers may try to ban abortion again in the future.

In response to legislative attacks on abortion access across the country, abortion advocates have turned to state ballot initiatives to protect the right to abortion. Earlier this month, voters in Ohio approved a constitutional amendment making abortion access a constitutional right in the state. This win was the seventh straight electoral win for abortion rights.

“Ohioans sent a message to the nation last night: Americans support abortion rights and will turn out to vote to protect these rights,” Veronica Ingham, campaign manager of Ohioans For Reproductive Freedom, told reporters after voters enshrined the right to an abortion in the state constitution. “Voters last night made it clear that this is not a partisan issue.”

Emboldened by these successes, abortion advocates in at least a dozen states are looking into getting the right to abortion access on the 2024 ballot. Constitutional amendments to protect access are already on the 2024 ballot in Maryland and New York, while abortion advocates in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, Nevada, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Washington and Nebraska have started the legal processes to ensure that abortion rights are on the ballot for voters to decide next election.

Support for abortion seems to cut across party lines, even in red states. While Nebraska is one of the most reliably Republican states in the country, abortion advocates believe voters will largely support the pro-abortion ballot initiative.

“After our big launch tomorrow, we’ll be out in the community talking about the campaign and educating voters and getting them to sign the petition,” said Ashlei Spivey with Protect Our Rights. “We’re just excited to connect with folks all across Nebraska.”

To get abortion rights on the 2024 ballot, abortion advocates will need to collect 125,000 signatures in 36 counties by next summer.

“We’re confident in this effort, and we’re energized,” Spivey said.