January 2024
This Majority Is Not Silent
Abortion-Rights Petitions Spread Across State as Volunteers Bolster Constitutional Bid

Abortion rights continue to hit the headlines as many states have ruled against women’s health in high-profile cases. Most recently people were outraged when the Texas attorney general denied Kate Cox, a married mother of two, access to an abortion when her health was at risk from a nonviable pregnancy.

Since its launch in September, the Arizona Abortion Access Act petition effort, collecting signatures to get an abortion-rights amendment to the Arizona constitution on the ballot in 2024, appears to be moving forward with strong support from volunteers across the state. A coalition of pro-choice groups called Arizona for Abortion Access is training volunteers on how to collect them. In Prescott alone, volunteers have checked out 175 petition pages with 15 spaces for signatures on each, and 50 have been turned in with 750 signatures so far.

Involving the participation of Planned Parenthood of Arizona, ACLU of Arizona, Arizona List, Affirm Sexual and Reproductive Health, Healthcare Rising Arizona, Reproductive Freedom for All Arizona and Arizona Indivisible, the groups plan to collect a minimum of 400,000 signatures. To legally qualify for the ballot they must turn in 383,923 valid signatures by July 3, 2024.

Rodd McLeod, speaking for Arizona for Abortion Access, said the group doesn’t want to give specific numbers yet, but is “very pleased” with the volunteer participation: “The effort is going well.” He said the group plans to collect a high number of signatures because it expects that anti-choice groups like Alliance Defending Freedom “will spend millions” to keep the proposition off the ballot.

“If they determine TV ads aren’t going to work, they will try to keep it off the ballot by finding technical problems with the signatures,” McLeod said. “They’ll hire lawyers and associates to go through the signatures with a fine-toothed comb and try to throw them out during the five-day fact-finding trial after they’re turned in.”

McLeod said both volunteers and paid circulators are “working hard and hitting their targets,” adding, “We could definitely always use more volunteers.” Signature-gatherers include a small number of paid circulators (around 8%), principally working in Phoenix and Tucson.

Arizona Indivisible, the state branch of Indivisible, has been a driving force in organizing training, distributing and collecting petitions to have reproductive rights protected in our state constitution. Indivisible describes itself as “a grassroots movement of thousands of local Indivisible groups with a mission to elect progressive leaders, rebuild our democracy, and defeat the Trump agenda.” Maria Lynam, coordinator of the local petition effort, said the organization’s leadership in promoting the effort mirrors its commitment to protecting reproductive rights.

Tricia Sauer, senior organizing manager for Arizona Indivisible, said the organization got heavily involved because of the importance of the issue.

“Indivisible volunteers have circulated petitions for various causes over the past several years, but when it comes to the Arizona for Abortion Access amendment, no previous effort drew as much excitement, passion and dedication from our members,” Sauer said. “As soon as it was announced, Indivisible members in Prescott and across the state started clamoring to get involved, because that’s how strongly they feel about the right of all of us to make our own healthcare decisions without interference from politicians. Across Arizona we have more than 1,100 volunteers registered to circulate the ‘triple-A’ petition, and as we speak at least 3,000 petitions are in Indivisible volunteers’ hands, being signed every day by voters who want to protect abortion rights once and for all. The Arizona Constitution gives citizens the right to make our own laws, and it’s a right we at Indivisible are proud to exercise.”

Indivisible volunteers take petition-signing seriously because they understand the effect a ballot proposition can have on an issue, says Sauer.

“What’s different about Indivisible is that our members don’t just get involved when it’s an election year or when a campaign rolls around,” Sauer said. “These communities, particularly rural communities all over the state, are our homes every day of the year. The people we’re talking to about rights and laws in Arizona are our neighbors, friends and family, and we’re all affected by the issues we choose to activate around. Indivisible truly embodies the expression that ‘all politics are local’ because we believe the best way to improve your own community is to be engaged with it, so that’s exactly what we do, and we do it darn well. We always welcome folks who want to get involved.”

Read the summary and full text of the initiative here: ballotpedia.org/Arizona_Right_to_Abortion_Initiative_(2024)

More at indivisible.org/campaign/battleground-arizona

Journalist Toni Denis is a frequent contributor.

Journalist Toni Denis is a frequent contributor to 5enses.

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