Arkansas election officials reject petitions submitted for an abortion-rights ballot measure


Arkansas election officials on Wednesday rejected petitions submitted for an abortion-rights ballot measure that organizers hoped to put before voters this fall in a predominantly Republican state.

The secretary of state’s office rejected the petitions submitted on Friday by supporters of the proposal, saying the group didn’t submit statements required regarding paid signature gatherers.

Organizers on Friday submitted more than 101,000 signatures. They needed at least 90,704 signatures from registered voters and a minimum number from 50 counties.

A spokesperson for Arkansans for Limited Government, the group behind the measure, said its legal team was reviewing the state’s letter.

The measure would have barred laws banning abortion in the first 20 weeks of gestation and allowed the procedure later in pregnancy in cases of rape, incest, threats to the woman’s health or life, or if the fetus would be unlikely to survive birth.

The U.S. Supreme Court removed the nationwide right to abortion with a 2022 ruling, which sparked a national push to have voters decide the matter state by state. An Arkansas law banning abortion took effect when the court issued its ruling. Arkansas’ current ban allows abortion only to protect the mother’s life in a medical emergency.

The proposal was viewed as a test of support for abortion rights in a predominantly Republican state where top elected officials have touted their opposition to abortion.

The Arkansas ballot proposal lacked support from national abortion rights groups such as Planned Parenthood because it would still have allowed abortion to be banned 20 weeks into pregnancy. It faced heavy opposition from abortion opponents in the state. One of the groups, the Family Council Action Committee, published the names of people gathering signatures for the abortion measure and had vowed to challenge the proposed constitutional amendment in court if it made the ballot.

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