OMAHA, Neb. — An effort is being launched to enshrine abortion rights in the Nebraska Constitution, following successful efforts in other red states where Republicans had enacted or sought abortion restrictions.
Protect Our Rights, the coalition behind the effort, submitted proposed petition language to the Nebraska Secretary of State’s office late last month.
That language was kept secret until Wednesday, when the state’s top official choiceThe office published it. Organizers plan to hold a news conference Thursday to kick off the effort, in which they will need to collect about 125,000 valid signatures by next summer to get the measure on the ballot in 2024.
“We are confident in this effort and energized,” said Ashlei Spivey, founder and executive director of I Be Black Girl, an Omaha-based reproductive rights group that is part of the coalition. Other members include Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska and the Women’s Fund.
The proposed amendment would declare a fundamental right to abortion until fetal viability, or when necessary to protect the life or health of the pregnant patient. Depending on the language of the petition, the patient health care The doctor would determine fetal viability.
The group relied, in part, on polls that it says show a majority of Nebraskans favor abortion access, Spivey said. This is proving consistent in other states where voters have supported abortion rights, including Ohio, where voters last week resoundingly approved an amendment to the state constitution to protect access to abortion.
“Ohio was definitely a testing point for us,” Spivey said. “Ohio shows that voters are going to protect their rights.”
Now, advocates in at least a dozen states are seeking to bring abortion questions to voters in 2024.
Since the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that had protected abortion rights nationwide, voters in all seven states that held a statewide vote have backed access. That includes neighboring conservative Kansas, where voters last year resoundingly rejected a ballot measure that would have allowed the Republican-controlled Legislature to tighten restrictions or outright ban the procedure.
Paige Brown, spokeswoman for the Nebraska Catholic Conference, which has lobbied hard for abortion restrictions, telegraphed that abortion opponents are aware of the public pushback.
“Nebraska’s leading pro-life groups are not driving our own ballot initiative,” Brown said in a written statement. Instead, he said, they will focus on defending Nebraska’s current 12-week abortion ban passed by the Republican-led Legislature earlier this year. that includes exceptions for rape, incest and to save the mother’s life.
“The vast majority of Nebraskans agree that this is reasonable public policy,” Brown said.
A petition seeking a 2024 referendum to completely ban abortion in Nebraska, which passed earlier this year, was suspended after the sole organizer could not gather enough volunteers to circulate it.
Despite signs that new restrictions are unpopular, Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen and other Republican leaders have vowed to do just that, even as others have warned it could cost them elections. Republican state Sen. Merve Riepe, who killed a six-week ban bill by refusing to end a filibuster, went to the floor in April to urge her conservative colleagues to pay attention to signs that the Abortion will drive women to vote out of office. .
“We must embrace the future of reproductive rights,” she said at the time.
Ashley All, who helped lead the effort in Kansas to protect abortion rights, echoed that warning, noting that Kansas voters rejected that state’s anti-abortion effort by nearly 20 percentage points.
“For 50 years, all we’ve heard is a very specific stereotype about who gets an abortion and why,” All said. “But when you start breaking that stereotype and showing how abortion is healthcare, people’s perceptions and opinions start to change.”