A group of Arkansas citizens who want to protect the right to abortion in the state has filed a third draft of a proposed constitutional amendment with the attorney general’s office. The group, Arkansans for Limited Government, hopes to get the amendment on the 2024 ballot.
Amendment aims to limit state interference in abortion access
The proposed amendment, titled The Arkansas Abortion Amendment, would prevent the state from prohibiting, penalizing, delaying, or restricting access to abortion services within 18 weeks of fertilization. It would also allow abortion services after 18 weeks in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal anomaly, or to protect the physical health of the pregnant person.
The amendment defines abortion services as “the use or prescription of any instrument, medicine, drug, or any other substance or device to terminate the pregnancy of a female known to be pregnant with an intention other than to increase the probability of a live birth, to preserve the life or health of the child after live birth, or to remove a dead fetus.”
The amendment defines physical health as “a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, or when continuation of the pregnancy will create a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function.”
The amendment also defines fertilization as “the fusion of human spermatozoon with a human ovum.”
Amendment faces legal hurdles and opposition
The group submitted the third draft of the amendment on Dec. 31, 2023, after the attorney general rejected the previous two drafts for being ambiguous, misleading, or contradictory. The attorney general has 10 business days to review the draft and certify or reject the popular name and ballot title.
If the attorney general certifies the draft, the group will need to collect at least 90,704 signatures of registered voters by July 5, 2024, to qualify the amendment for the November 2024 general election. The group will also need to gather signatures from at least 50 of the state’s 75 counties, according to a new law passed in 2023.
The amendment faces strong opposition from anti-abortion groups and lawmakers, who have passed several laws to restrict or ban abortion in the state. In 2023, the state enacted a law that bans nearly all abortions except to save the life of the mother in a medical emergency. The law took effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
The amendment also faces legal challenges from the state and federal courts, which could block or invalidate the measure if it violates the U.S. Constitution or other laws.
Amendment supporters say it is a compromise and a necessity
The group behind the amendment says it is a compromise that balances the rights of the pregnant person and the state. The group says the amendment is necessary to protect the reproductive health and autonomy of Arkansans, especially women, low-income people, and people of color, who are disproportionately affected by the lack of access to abortion.
The group says the amendment is not pro-choice or pro-life, but pro-people. The group says it respects the diversity of opinions and beliefs on the issue of abortion, but believes that the decision should be left to the individual and their health care provider, not the government.
The group says it is confident that the attorney general will approve the third draft of the amendment, and that the people of Arkansas will support the measure if it reaches the ballot.