Group starts effort for ballot measure to make abortion a constitutional right in Arizona

Dr. Matt Heinz, a former Arizona lawmaker and current Pima County supervisor who’s working on the initiative, said he has “tremendous faith” in the group’s ability to meet its signature goals, despite the short time frame./UArizona

Ray Stern | Arizona Republic

Arizonans could get the chance to make abortion legal in the state this year, even if the U.S. Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade.

But a new effort to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot has to clear significant hurdles. Backers will first need to submit 356,467 valid voter signatures by July 7.

It’s a tight deadline and if that step is successful — and if the measure survives likely legal challenges — a majority of voters would have to approve it. It would take effect immediately.

A coalition of health care professionals, activists and advocates behind the effort, calling themselves Arizonans for Reproductive Freedom, submitted an application for the measure at the state Secretary of State’s Office on Monday.

Dr. Matt Heinz, a former Arizona lawmaker and current Pima County supervisor who’s working on the initiative, said he has “tremendous faith” in the group’s ability to meet its signature goals, despite the short time frame.

“The volunteer effort will be Herculean and intense,” he said. “Plus, there will be funds for dedicated paid signature gathering from experienced Arizona firms. … This is very doable.”

The proposed constitutional amendment would create a new right for Arizonans to make decisions about abortion, contraception, prenatal care, childbirth, infertility care and related services.

“Every individual has a fundamental right to reproductive freedom, which entails the right to make and effectuate decisions about all matters relating to pregnancy,” the proposed amendment begins.

The amendment would take power away from the government to “restrict, penalize, frustrate or otherwise interfere” with any of those rights, including “pre-viability” abortions, or interfere with nonmedical reproductive services.

Abortions would still be limited by the viability of the fetus, as they are now, but with no set time frame as a firm rule. Viability would be defined by a “good faith medical judgment” of a licensed health care professional that a fetus would survive, with or without artificial support, the initiative states.

Dr. Victoria Fewell, a Banner Health obstetrician-gynecologist in Tucson, serves as the group’s chairperson. She didn’t return a phone message Tuesday.

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