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Abortion question one step closer to Arkansas’ November ballot

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(The Center Square) – Arkansans for Limited Government submitted more than 100,000 signatures to Secretary of State John Thurston on Friday for a constitutional amendment that would allow abortion up to 18 weeks of pregnancy.

The amendment also prevents the state from banning abortion in cases of rape, incest, the mother’s health or fatal fetal anomaly.

The organization turned in more than 100,000 signatures. State law requires 90,704 signatures for a constitutional amendment and 72,563 for initiated acts.

Signatures must be collected in 50 of the state’s 75 counties. Arkansans for Limited Government said signatures were collected in all 75 counties.

“Healthcare decisions, including decisions about reproductive health, should be made between patients and their healthcare team,” said Lauren Cowles, executive director of Arkansans for Limited Government. “Right now, Arkansas is the most dangerous place in the country to be pregnant. Not only does Arkansas have the highest maternal mortality rate in the nation, nearly half of Arkansas counties are maternity healthcare deserts, meaning they have no obstetric providers or options for delivery care. Arkansas deserves better than that.”

After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision in 2022, then Gov. Asa Hutchinson and then-Attorney General Leslie Rutledge banned abortion except in cases where the mother’s life is in danger.

Thurston must certify the signatures before the issue can appear on the ballot.

Two other groups also turned in signatures on Friday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s Office told The Center Square.

A petition from the group Local Voters in Charge would require counties to approve casinos by a vote.

The office also received signatures from a group wanting to expand medical marijuana access by removing the fee for a card that will expire in three years instead of one.

The Arkansas Period Poverty Project submitted a petition at the last minute. If the signatures are certified and voters approve the measure, the sales tax on menstrual products and diapers for children and adults would be removed.

For AR Kids, which is spearheading a ballot initiative entitled the “Educational Rights Amendment of 2024,” said in a social media post on Friday that the group did not get enough signatures to appear on the ballot. The proposed amendment would require private schools to adhere to the same standards as public schools. The group said it will resubmit its petition request to get it on the 2026 ballot.

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