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Arkansas Abortion Ballot Initiative Approved — Organizers Need 90,000 Signatures

A rally is planned for this weekend to formally begin the signature collection process, organizers said.

Abortion-rights activists counter-demonstrate as anti-abortion demonstrators gather for a rally in Federal Building Plaza on June 24, 2023, in Chicago, Illinois.

Arkansas Republican Attorney General Tim Griffin has approved a ballot initiative aimed at enshrining abortion rights in the state constitution after having blocked two earlier drafts of the proposal.

Griffin, who is anti-abortion, claimed there were issues with the language of the previous drafts, but added that he couldn’t block the proposal over his personal views.

“I am guided by the law and the law alone,” he said in a statement, likely trying to stave off criticisms from anti-abortion activists in the state.

The proposal was introduced by an organization called Arkansans for Limited Government. Organizers will now need to collect 90,704 valid signatures before July 5 in order to get the measure to voters on the November ballot.

Jim McHugh, the organization’s treasurer, celebrated Griffin’s decision to approve the ballot initiative.

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

Although the measure would restore abortion rights for many individuals, it would still offer less abortion protections than were in place prior to Roe v. Wade’s overturn; while the standard under Roe required states to recognize abortion rights, on average, up to around 24 weeks of pregnancy, the measure from Arkansans for Limited Government would only protect abortion rights up to 18 weeks.

Still, the measure is preferable to the current law in Arkansas, which bars abortions at any week of gestation, allowing the procedure only to save the life of a pregnant person. Importantly, such exceptions are rarely allowed due to doctors and providers fearing legal repercussions from states with restrictive abortion laws, which may not agree on what constitutes a life-saving abortion procedure.

In addition to allowing abortions up to 18 weeks, the ballot initiative measure would expand exceptions for abortion after that timeframe, including in cases of rape, incest and fatal fetal anomalies, or in cases where the procedure is deemed necessary to protect the life and health of a pregnant person.

Signature collection will begin on Sunday at 2 pm in the northwest portion of the state, Arkansans for Limited Government said in a press release on Wednesday. A rally will be held at that time at the Fayetteville Town Center, where organizers will collect signatures and answer questions from potential signors.

“AFLG invites Arkansans across the state and political spectrum to come together and restore reproductive rights in Arkansas,” the press release stated.

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