Arizona abortion rights group submits signatures needed for ballot measure

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(PHOENIX) — An Arizona abortion rights group turned in a petition on Wednesday morning for a ballot measure that would enshrine the right to an abortion in the state’s constitution.

Arizona for Abortion Access, the organization behind the petition, said it collected 823,685 voter signatures — more than double the 383,923 signatures required from registered voters to qualify for the November 2024 election.

The proposed amendment, which is being called the “Arizona Abortion Access Act,” would allow abortions up until fetal viability, usually around 24 to 26 weeks gestation, with exceptions after that period “if a treating healthcare provider determines an abortion is needed to protect the life or physical or mental health of the patient.”

During a press conference Wednesday morning at the Arizona State Capitol, Dawn Penich, the ballot committee’s spokesperson, said it is the “most signatures ever submitted” by a citizen-led ballot initiative.

“To put that into context, that means one out of every five Arizona voters signed this petition,” she said.

County officials will have until late August to verify if there are enough valid signatures on the petition, which is then certified by the Arizona secretary of state’s office.

If the petition is approved, Arizona will join four other states — Colorado, Florida, Maryland and Nevada — that have a measure on the ballot to establish the right to an abortion in the state’s constitution.

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, four states — California, Michigan, Ohio and Vermont — voted to enshrine abortion rights in their constitutions.

Meanwhile, Kansas voters rejected a measure to remove the right to an abortion from its state constitution while voters in Kentucky and Montana voted against further restricting rights to abortion services.

On the national level, President Joe Biden has vowed to defend women’s reproductive rights and fight for legal access to abortion.

Arizona for Abortion Access did not immediately return ABC News’ request for comment.

Earlier this year, the Arizona Supreme Court reinstated an 1864 near-total abortion ban, which was set to go into effect on Sept. 27.

Lawmakers, however, quickly passed a bill repealing the long dormant ban, which was signed by Gov. Katie Hobbs. The repeal takes effect on Sept. 14, which is 90 days after the end of the legislative sessions, meaning the Civil War-era ban will not go into effect.

Instead, Arizona will keep its current laws in place, which ban abortion at 15 weeks gestation or later. Women are required to make two trips 24 hours apart, one for an in-person consultation and another for the procedure.

Additionally, women must receive an ultrasound even if medically unnecessary and receive a medication abortion in person because state laws ban the use of telehealth.

Dr. Paul Isaacson, an OB/GYN who has practiced abortion care in Arizona for the last 20 years, called the current law “unacceptable” during Wednesday’s news conference.

“Fifteen weeks is a completely arbitrary point that doesn’t relate to any specific milestone in fetal development,” Isaacson said. “Many of the medical complications that can lead to the need for an abortion don’t occur or might not be discovered before 15 weeks.”

He added, “Current Arizona law puts health care professionals and patients in countless unacceptable and dangerous situations. Current law makes no exception for rape, for incest or countless health complications.”

ABC News’ Irving Last and Michael Pappano contributed to this report.

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