Campaigns to protect abortion rights in Nevada and Arkansas both got welcome news Tuesday when they finally got the green light to collect signatures to place proposed amendments before voters. However, both Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom and Arkansans for Limited Government have challenges ahead as they seek to safeguard reproductive rights in their respective states.
In Nevada, NRF wants to amend the state constitution to guarantee that the procedure can take place up until fetal viability, which is usually 22 to 24 weeks into a pregnancy, or whenever it’s needed to protect the well-being of a patient. Abortion is already legal in the Silver State, thanks to a law passed after Roe v. Wade that was affirmed in a 1990 referendum. That referendum prevents the legislature from repealing the Roe-era law, but NRF wants to make it even harder to roll back abortion rights and to expand their protections further.
However, a state judge rejected the group’s first proposal in November after ruling it covered too many subjects. NRF responded by submitting a revised version that focuses solely on abortion and no longer includes provisions guaranteeing rights to birth control and infertility care. The same judge allowed this slimmed-down measure to move forward on Tuesdaythough an anti-abortion quickly announced it would appeal the ruling.
NRF hasn’t given up trying to advance the more expansive incarnation of the amendment, however. „We remain confident that the Nevada Supreme Court will recognize that our initial petition meets all requirements under Nevada law and will quickly issue a favorable ruling on our pending appeal,“ the group said in a statement.
But even if they don’t convince the state’s highest court, NRF is still likely to see its preferred version of its amendment appear before voters in 2026. The Democratic-led state legislature advanced an amendment last year that the Nevada Independent explained last month „contains the same language“ as NRF’s initial proposal.
State law requires lawmakers to approve this same amendment again following the 2024 general election before it could go before voters in 2026, when it would need to win a majority to go into effect.
The process is different, though potentially just as long, for citizen-backed groups like NRF that seek to amend the constitution. Supporters must collect approximately 102,000 signatures statewide―a figure that represents 10% of the votes cast in the most recent general election―by June 26and they need about 25,600 of them to come from each of the state’s four congressional districts. If an amendment qualifies for the ballot, voters would have to approve it both in 2024 and again in 2026 before it could become law.
If NRF ultimately wins at the ballot box, abortion rights opponents would face the same lengthy process if they ever sought to reverse the amendment. By contrast, it would take just one statewide vote at the ballot box to allow lawmakers to repeal the state’s abortion law that was affirmed by the 1990 referendum.
While Nevada is one of the nation’s most competitive swing states, abortion rights supporters have reason to be optimistic that voters will side with them. The Democratic firm Civiqs finds that 62% of respondents believe that the procedure should be legal in all or most cases, while only 34% say the opposite.
Abortion rights proponents in Arkansas, meanwhile, face a more difficult battle just getting on the ballot. But Arkansans for Limited Government got some good news Tuesday when Republican Attorney General Tim Griffin certified the ballot language for the group’s proposed amendment, a move that came after he rejected the wording of its first two versions. ALG quickly said it would begin its efforts to get this third draft on the ballot.
The version Griffin allowed to go forward would end the Natural State’s near-total abortion ban and allow the procedure to take place up to 18 weeks into a pregnancy. It also would guarantee the right to an abortion in several instances, including rape, incest, or to protect the mother.
The attorney general says he added „clarifying“ languagesuch as the difference between fetal age and gestational age and how it would impact the current law, though he still warned that „[a]ny ambiguity in the text of a measure could lead to a successful court challenge.“
ALG has until July 5 to gather petitions from about 91,000 voters, a figure that represents 10% of the ballots cast in the most recent gubernatorial election. A new GOP law also requires organizers to hit certain targets in 50 of Arkansas‘ 75 countieswhich is a huge hurdle for progressives in a state where Joe Biden carried only eight counties. That law is currently being challenged in state court.
ALG, unlike its counterparts in Nevada, only needs to convince a majority of voters to pass this change to the constitution once, but that may be a difficult task. Civiqs finds that 52% of the state’s voters believe that abortion should be illegal all or most of the time, while 43% say the opposite.
An October poll from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, asked the question differently, but it also found a majority of respondents disinclined to expand abortion access. While a 39% plurality said they would „favor laws that would make it easier to get an abortion,“ 30% wanted things to be more difficult. Another 24%, finally, agreed there should be „no change“ to the law.