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Abortion on the ballot? Not if these Republican lawmakers can help it

legislative bodies in ArkansasAnd flAnd IdahoAnd MissouriAnd North DakotaAnd Ohio And Oklahoma In this session they discuss bills that would raise registration fees, increase the number of signatures required to get a ballot, restrict who can collect signatures, authorize a broader geographic distribution of signatures, and raise the voting threshold for passing an amendment from a majority to a supermajority. While the bills differ in wording, they will have the same effect: limiting the power of voters to override Republican-imposed abortion restrictions, which went into effect after the Supreme Court overturned ru vs. valleye last year.

After watching the pro-abortion side win all six abortion-related ballot battles in 2022 — including in conservative states like Kansas and Kentucky — conservatives fear, and are mobilizing to avoid a repeat.

Kelsey Pritchard, the state’s director of public affairs, told Susan B. Anthony Pro Life America, which plans to spend tens of millions of dollars on fighting abortion ballot initiatives over the next two years. “We’re going to really engage in these ballot measures that are often very radical and go far beyond what we’ve been told.” ru ever did.”

In Mississippi, where a court order has frozen all ballot efforts in 2021, GOP lawmakers have been Legislation development This would restore the mechanism but prevent voters from placing abortion-related measures on the ballot.

“I think it’s just a continuation of the policy of Mississippi and our state’s leaders that we’re going to be a pro-life state,” said a Mississippi representative. Nick Payne, who introduced the bill on the House floor.

But in most states, GOP proposals to tighten restrictions on ballot initiatives do not explicitly target abortion. The push to change the rules began years ago Dobbs Overturn the decision ru vs. valley in June 2022It is spurred by progressive efforts to legalize marijuana, expand Medicaid and raise the minimum wage in many red states — although it has reached new heights over the past year as voters and elected officials clash over abortion policies.

However, some anti-abortion activists worry that this trend could backfire, preventing groups from using this tactic to pass their own constitutional amendments through the popular vote.

“In Florida, it’s a double-edged sword,” said Andrew Sherville, leader of the Florida Voice for the Unborn group working to put an anti-abortion measure on the 2024 ballot. “So we are conflicted about that, because there is a large group of grassroots pro-life advocates who feel our governor and legislature have let us down on this issue for far too long and want to take matters into our own hands.”

interest on the left in using ballot initiatives To protect or expand access to abortion exploded in the aftermath of the 2022 midterm elections. Efforts are already underway in Missouri, Ohio and South Dakota to include language restoring abortion rights in state constitutions, while advocates in many other states consider their options.

The campaign is furthest away in Ohio, where abortion rights advocates began collecting signatures this week. A coalition of anti-abortion groups called Protect Women Ohio has formed in response, announcing a $5 million ad buy this week to air a 30-second advertisement suggesting that the proposed amendment would eliminate parents’ rights to decide whether their children should get abortions. and others. Children’s health care.

At the same time, some Ohio lawmakers are pushing to suggest It would raise the voter approval threshold for constitutional amendments from a simple majority to 60%.

In Missouri, where progressive groups have submitted several copies of their ballot initiative for abortion rights to state authorities for review, lawmakers are likewise Weight suggestions To enforce the requirement of a supermajority vote and to authorize passage of the measure in more than half of the Missouri House districts until it becomes effective.

“It’s about making sure everyone has a voice, and that includes central Missouri as well,” said Susan Klein, executive director of Missouri Right to Life. “We’ve known for some time that the threat of legalizing abortion has been spreading through various states and will eventually come to Missouri. We’ve worked hard to prepare for this challenge and we’re ready.”

In Idaho, the legislators they try Requiring supporters of initiative petitions to collect signatures from 6 percent of registered voters to qualify for the ballot.

“I call these papers death by a thousand cuts,” said Kelly Hall, executive director of the progressive ballot initiative group The Fairness Project. “When you hear about each one in isolation, it seems like it’s no big deal. But taken together, they have an exclusionary effect on people’s participation in democracy.”

Conservative lawmakers and advocates pushing for the rule change say they reflect their beliefs about how the laws are written and aren’t just about abortion — but they’re vocal about their desire to make it more difficult to pass this kind of broad voter protection in California, Michigan and Vermont. Released last year.

“I didn’t start this because of abortion, but… Planned Parenthood is trying very hard to perpetuate the lack of protections for unborn babies in the Constitutions,” said the North Dakota state senator. Jan Myrdal, who chairs the pro-life caucus in the state legislature. “You can sit in California or New York or Washington and throw an arrow, attach two million dollars to it, and change our Constitution.”

the Decision Myrdal is the sponsor, which passed the Senate last month and is awaiting a vote in the House of Representatives, would require proposed constitutional amendments to pass twice — during the primary and general elections — and raise the signature collection requirement from 4 percent to 5 percent of the population. If approved, the proposed changes will appear on the state’s 2024 ballot.

Major national anti-abortion groups say they do not officially endorse the effort, but they support the Republican lawmakers behind them.

“It begins to underestimate the importance of the Constitution if it can be changed at the whim of the current culture,” said Carol Tobias, chair of the National Right to Life Committee.

Even in states that have not yet taken steps to put a measure of abortion rights on the ballot, conservative concerns about such a move are prompting some surprising legislative action.

In Oklahoma, anti-abortion leader Lowinger argues to lawmakers that polling shows overwhelming support for rape and incest exceptions — As one lawmaker suggested On a bill that cleared its first committee last month — and overwhelming opposition to leaving the state ban in place.

If a state does not have a ballot, he said, he will not support exceptions. But since this threat exists, he said, “we must not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.”

“The abortion industry has the weapon to defeat what we consider idealistic politics,” Lowinger told lawmakers. “The initiative petition is the trump card.”

Loinger did not respond to multiple requests for comment. However, the National Right to Life Association, the parent group of his organization, told Politico that it supports his argument that it is better to make exceptions for rape and incest than risk a blanket suffrage initiative that enshrines the right to abortion in the state constitution.

“This is not treason,” insisted Tobias. “If you really look at what we’re facing, we can either save 95 percent of all children or we could lose everything and all children could die. It’s kind of hard not to see the reality.”

Still, abortion advocates on both sides maintain that a ballot fight in Oklahoma is still possible — and even likely — whether or not the state agrees to exceptions for rape and incest.

“They’re probably going to try to do one anyway, no matter what we do,” said the Oklahoma State representative. Jim Olsen, the Republican who launched an effort with other conservative state lawmakers to defeat the Exceptions Act. “The fight has not even come and we are already retreating.”

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