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AZ abortion rights group files longshot bid to protect abortion in state constitution

Arizona capitol
Posted at 5:32 PM, May 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-20 07:27:11-04

PHOENIX — Organizers of a petition drive to make women's reproductive rights part of Arizona's constitution say signature gatherers may be hitting the streets throughout Maricopa County very soon.

Arizonans for Reproductive Freedom will attempt to gather more than 356,000 signatures from registered voters. It has until July 7 to collect them to have any chance of getting the initiative on the November ballot.

"It does seem like an uphill battle, but that moment when the decision was leaked, we have seen thousands of people take to the streets in marches and rallies. Our inboxes are overwhelmed with people right now," Shasta McManus, one of the organizers with Arizonans for Reproductive Freedom said.

The move to constitutionally protect a woman's right to an abortion in Arizona is in response to the leaked U.S. Supreme Court opinion suggesting it's preparing to strike down Roe v Wade. Abortion as described in the amendment will be legal up until the time of viability. Viability is described as the point in a pregnancy at which, in the good-faith medical judgment of a qualified, licensed healthcare professional based on the particular facts of the case before the healthcare professional, there is a reasonable likelihood of sustained fetal survival outside the uterus with or without artificial support.

Brittany Fonteno, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona released a statement Thursday saying in part, "While we're eager to leverage outrage and enthusiasm of supporters and volunteers, the timeline for the proposed measure makes qualifying by July unlikely."

Planned Parenthood expects there will be legal challenges to the language, delaying signature collection, as well as other possible legal maneuvers that could delay or block the measure's progress, tying it up in court and keeping it off the November ballot. Shasta McManus is aware of Planned Parenthood's reluctance to get behind the constitutional amendment. But she says, it will not stop the effort.

"We hope to make them proud because, in the end, we all are working for the same mission. That is to make sure women have access for reproductive freedom," McManus said.