Abortion foes launch campaign against Arizona ballot initiative, spread misinformation

Opponents of the initiative to make
abortion access a right in Arizona have launched a campaign against it,
using alarmist language and hyperbolic claims to turn Arizona voters
away. 

On Wednesday, the It Goes Too Far
campaign officially announced its plans to counter the Arizona Abortion
Access Act and launched a website aimed at persuading Arizonans not to
add their names to the initiative, which is still gathering signatures
to qualify for the 2024 ballot. 

But they’ll have their work cut out
for them: Backers of the Arizona Abortion Access Act announced Thursday
that they’ve already collected 250,000 of the 383,923 signatures they
need to qualify for the 2024 ballot. They’ve done so in just four
months, and have nearly six months left to continue gathering
signatures. 

Initiative organizers typically seek
to collect far above the requirement threshold, to ensure a buffer
against signatures that are thrown out during the verification process.

Currently, Arizona is under a
gestational ban that prohibits doctors from providing elective abortions
beyond 15 weeks unless the patient is in life-threatening danger. There
is no exception for rape or incest, and providers face a class 6 felony
if they violate the law’s provisions. 

Arizona also has a near-total ban
still on the books from 1864, which punishes doctors with a mandatory
prison sentence of up to five years if an abortion was provided for any
reason other than saving the patient’s life. The Arizona Supreme Court heard arguments in December on whether to reinstate the 160-year-old law but has yet to issue its ruling. 

Political Director Olivia Escobedo
told the Arizona Mirror that It Goes Too Far is committed to ensuring
the abortion act doesn’t make it onto the 2024 ballot. Escobedo refused
to share the campaign’s strategy or name the coalition members behind
it. 

“The goal of It Goes Too Far is to
stop a constitutional amendment that puts the health and safety of girls
and women at risk, just in an effort to expand abortion beyond what
most voters support,” she said.

A February 2023 survey by the Public
Religion Research Institute, a nonpartisan research organization,
estimated that as many as 62% of Arizonans agree that abortion should be legal in most or all cases. 

The Arizona Abortion Access Act would
protect access to the procedure up to the point of fetal viability —
generally regarded to be around 23 or 24 weeks — and invalidate any
state law or policy seeking to restrict or deny a person’s ability to
receive abortion care. It also includes a provision that allows for
abortions beyond the point of fetal viability if a health care
professional deems it necessary to protect the patient’s life or mental
well-being. 

It Goes Too Far’s website claims that
enshrining abortion access in the Arizona Constitution will result in
detrimental health care results for women because the state will be
prevented from enacting important safety measures. 

“Language stating “the
state shall not enact, adopt or enforce any law, regulations, policy,
or practice that…restricts or interferes with an abortion]
” would lead to the elimination of most safety precautions under the argument that they “interfere” or “regulate” abortion,” reads the website. 

But the Arizona Abortion Access Act
explicitly includes an exception for laws and policies that advance a
“compelling state interest”, defined, in part, as something that
improves or maintains the patient’s health. 

The website also claims that the act
will eventually force taxpayers to fund abortions, simply by enshrining
it as a right to be protected. 

“Failure to fund abortion would likely be interpreted as improper ‘interference’ with the new ‘fundamental right to abortion,’” reads the website. 

Chris Love, an executive committee
member for the Arizona for Abortion Access campaign, dismissed the
claims being circulated by It Goes Too Far as intentional
misinformation. 

“It Goes Too Far is not a campaign to
protect Arizonans,” she said. “It’s a campaign that is already lying to
voters in order to deny Arizonans their reproductive freedom. They’re
using the same tired playbook of voter intimidation and confusion that
we saw fail across the country, and Arizonans will see right through
it.”

Love, who also serves as a senior
advisor to Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, clarified that the
act would only safeguard access to abortion care, stopping undue
interference from local government officials. In the wake of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization,
state lawmakers have been empowered to restrict or protect reproductive
health care — and in Arizona, where Republicans hold a legislative
majority, restrictions have ruled. 

“Let’s get the facts straight: The
Arizona for Abortion Act would ensure that people have the freedom to
decide what is best for their own bodies and lives,” Love said. “The
amendment would protect abortion access in our state and keep it
regulated the same way as any other medical care.”

At the act’s signature gathering
kick-off in September, Love told reporters the campaign would focus on
convincing voters and not on fending off messaging from opponents. And,
based on the success of similar abortion act campaigns in other states,
it’s likely that the Arizona effort won’t be too hindered by the
anti-abortion movement. In Kansas and Ohio, abortion rights efforts handily outraised opponents, attracting funding from across the country and special interest groups as well as from in-state donors.