Advocates in Nebraska are officially launching a campaign to put abortion protections on the ballot in 2024, joining activists in other red states seeking to expand access more than a year after Roe v. Wade was overturned.
Nebraska’s measure would establish a right to abortion prior to fetal viability and when needed to protect a patient’s life or health. Under the petition language, the patient’s health care provider would determine viability.
The initiative is led by a coalition called Protect Our Rights, which includes local organizations and affiliates such as Planned Parenthood North Central States, the ACLU of Nebraska, I Be Black Girl and the Women’s Fund of Omaha.
Nebraska joins Arizona, Colorado, Florida, and Nevada in pursuing citizen-initiated abortion access campaigns in 2024.
“Our constitutional amendment is informed both by medical experts and where most Nebraskans are on this issue. Unlike the state officials working to totally ban abortion, we’re elevating the voices and lived experiences of Nebraskans who believe that pregnant people should be able to access needed care with compassion and privacy, free from political interference,” Ashlei Spivey, a member of Protect Our Rights’ executive committee and executive director of I Be Black Girl, said in a statement.
To place a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot requires valid signatures from 10 percent of the registered voters in the state — a little less than 123,000, as of the most recent public data available.
In addition, signatures must be collected from 5 percent of the registered voters in 38 of Nebraska’s 93 counties.
Nebraska lawmakers in May passed a 12-week abortion ban, as part of a broader bill that also bans gender-affirming health care for transgender minors. The law effectively ban abortion 9 to 10 weeks after fertilization, with exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest, and to save the life of the mother.
It took effect Oct. 1.
Every state that put abortion on the ballot since the end of Roe has voted in favor of protecting access to the procedure in some way, including most recently Ohio, where 57 percent of voters approved a measure to protect abortion to the point of viability.
Ballot measure campaigns are expensive undertakings, and the campaigns for and against abortion language have drawn millions of dollars in outside spending.
Anti-abortion groups called the effort extreme and deployed a frequent attack line used any time abortion rights advocates want to expand access: that the measure would allow abortions literally until the end of pregnancy.
“Nebraska’s law currently allows abortion throughout the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, but that isn’t enough for the abortion industry and activists who are trying to write second- and third-trimester abortions into our constitution. This amendment would allow for abortion until the moment of birth,” Nebraska Right to Life Executive Director Sandy Danek said in a statement. “This ballot measure is not pro-choice, it’s pro-abortion, and it does not reflect the values of Nebraskans.”
Abortions occurring after viability, which is usually around 24 weeks, are extremely rare. Only about 1 percent occur after 21 weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 93 percent are performed at or before 13 weeks.