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Reproductive rights group files initiative to amend AZ Constitution, protecting right to abortion

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A newly organized group of reproductive rights supporters has filed an initiative that seeks to amend the Arizona Constitution to protect the right to abortion.

The initiative was filed Tuesday by a group called Arizonans for Reproductive Freedom.

Group organizers need to collect more than 356,000 signatures from registered voters in a little over seven weeks in order to make the deadline to appear on the ballot.

Initiative proponents often aim to collect at least an extra 30% over the minimum as a buffer.

The push was prompted by a leak early this month of a draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion that suggests the court is poised to strike down Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that said women have a constitutional right to get an abortion. The final ruling is expected to be released by late June. Also driving the push is a new Arizona law signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, about seven weeks before current law allows.

Arizona has a pre-statehood law that makes all abortions illegal that is expected to go back in force if Roe is overturned.

Shasta McManus, treasurer of Arizonans for Reproductive Freedom and a board member of Planned Parenthood Arizona, said a coalition of abortion rights supporters quickly formed when the draft high court opinion was leaked.

“We all decided that we can’t sit around and do nothing, that we have to act now,” McManus said. “As soon as this goes into effect, people’s lives are going to be irreversibly harmed.”

Arizona is one of at least 26 states that have either “trigger” laws that would ban all abortions if Roe is struck down or “zombie” laws like Arizona’s pre-Roe law that has not been enforceable since 1973, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports reproductive rights.

McManus said Arizona is one of just three states with those laws that also allows citizens to write their own laws or amend their constitution.

The proposed constitutional amendment would forbid any government interference in a woman’s reproductive health decisions and allow abortions until the fetus is viable, considered at about 23 to 24 weeks of pregnancy. It would allow abortions after that time if the life or health of the mother is at risk, and also bar any limits on contraception.