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(LifeSiteNews) — Pro-life activists in Arkansas are gearing up to attempt to defeat a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would codify a “right” to abortion, the latest in a series of battles across the nation in which the abortion lobby has enjoyed an alarming winning streak.

Abortion is currently illegal in Arkansas for any reason except to save a mother’s life from physical danger. But under the Arkansas Abortion Amendment of 2024, the state could not “prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion services within 18 weeks of fertilization” (4 1/2 months) for elective abortions, or at any point in history in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal anomaly, or when “needed to protect a pregnant female’s life or to protect a pregnant female from a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury” according to a “physician’s good-faith medical judgment.” Any state law conflicting with this would be “expressly declared null and void.”

The state constitution’s current Amendment 68, which declares that the “policy of Arkansas is to protect the life of every unborn child from conception until birth, to the extent permitted by the Federal Constitution,” would also be modified to add “and the Constitution of the State of Arkansas” at the end, reinforcing the new limits on pro-life protections. 

Notably, because the new amendment would theoretically allow elective abortion to be banned after 19 weeks (unless courts later demand that health exceptions be construed so broadly as to render such bans meaningless), Planned Parenthood Great Plains does not support it.

“If adopted the proposed measure could render all current laws protecting the unborn, protecting parental rights, and protecting the pregnant mother null and void,” Arkansas Right to Life (ARtL) warned. “This means that Arkansas laws requiring parental consent before a minor’s abortion could disappear. It could also repeal laws that protect the unborn from dismemberment abortion, it could repeal our informed consent and ultrasound law, clinic licensing law or admitting privilege law, and certainly, the law that protects the unborn child to birth. If this ballot measure is adopted it could make it impossible and illegal to pass any common-sense protections for the unborn child or her mother in the future.”

Republican Attorney General Tim Griffin certified the final draft of the amendment on January 23 after rejecting two previous versions for ambiguous and potentially misleading language. With that hurdle cleared, advocates next must collect the signatures of 90,704 registered voters by July 5 for it to appear on the ballot in November.

The Family Council of Arkansas reported that multiple state pro-life organizations have launched campaigns to defeat the amendment. Just last week, two new groups of state pro-life leaders announced their formation to advocate against the measure: Arkansans for Common Sense and NWA (Northwest Arkansas) Coalition for Life.

Arkansas Right to Life, meanwhile, has launched its Decline to Sign campaign, through which “paid canvassers will hit the streets of Arkansas” to “ask all Arkansans unwilling to sign a death warrant on innocent unborn children to POLITELY” deny the amendment’s pushers the signatures they need.

ARtL offers a free, printable two-page handout that pro-lifers can distribute to their fellow Arkansans, succinctly laying out the key facts and points about the issue. “Arkansas Right to Life cannot overcome this challenge without your support,” the group says. “We know that we will be outspent. But we have truth and God on our side.”

The battle will determine whether Arkansas pro-lifers have learned from the failure of pro-lifers to enact pro-life amendments or defeat pro-abortion ones in California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Vermont, and Ohio since November 2022, when a widely anticipated “red wave” failed to deliver Republicans the major gains they had expected in the midterm congressional elections. As these results followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 overturn of Roe v. Wade, many moderates and establishmentarians in the GOP blamed pro-lifers for the party’s woes, even though evidence shows abortion was at most a marginal boon to Democrat turnout that could have been overcome had Republicans not been plagued by a litany of unrelated factors.  

But while pro-life candidates need not fear taking clear pro-life stands, there is no denying the abortion lobby’s consistent success on the specific issue of state constitutional amendments, which effectively insulate abortion-on-demand from future state legislation and can only be overridden by a federal abortion ban, prompting much conversation among pro-lifers about the need to develop new strategies to protect life at the ballot box.

As acknowledged by ARtL, pro-abortion amendment campaigns typically enjoy a fundraising advantage over pro-lifers. But more fundamentally, abortion-specific ballot referendums pose unique challenges not seen in other political and policy battles. Elections concern two candidates with a multitude of strengths, weaknesses, and positions on a whole range of issues, whereas proposed amendments focus on just one, without ramifications for a voter’s job climate, schools, or public safety (for example). 

Further, when legislatures enact pro-life laws over pro-abortion objections, voters live under those laws and, by the time the next election comes around, have seen for themselves the abortion lobby’s warnings of their harms did not come to pass. With proposed amendments, however, abortion activists have had great success in scaring voters with false claims that they would, for instance, force doctors to let pregnant women die in medical emergencies. 

Arkansas is one of 14 states that currently ban all or most abortions, with available data so far indicating that now-enforceable pro-life laws could effectively wipe out an estimated 200,000 abortions a year.

Other tactics the abortion lobby has deployed to keep the abortion industry going include easy interstate distribution of abortion pills, legal protection and financial support of interstate abortion travel, constructing new abortion facilities near borders shared by pro-life and pro-abortion states, and making liberal states sanctuaries for those who want to evade or violate the laws of more pro-life neighbors. 

President Joe Biden has called on Congress to codify a “right” to abortion in federal law, which would not only restore but expand the Roe status quo by making it illegal for states to pass virtually any pro-life laws. The 2024 elections will determine whether Democrats retain the White House and keep or gain enough seats in Congress to make that happen.