Arkansas attorney general rejects wording of ballot measure seeking to repeal state’s abortion ban

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin is shown in this Aug. 8, 2023, file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)
Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin is shown in this Aug. 8, 2023, file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

LITTLE ROCK -- Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin rejected on Tuesday the wording of a proposed ballot measure that, if approved, would repeal the state's abortion ban and prohibit restriction of the procedure within 18 weeks after conception.

Arkansans for Limited Government submitted the proposed popular name -- The Arkansas Reproductive Healthcare Amendment -- and title to Griffin's office Nov. 9, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

The proposed constitutional amendment would block the state from restricting access to abortion within 18 weeks of conception, or in cases of rape, incest, in the event of a fatal fetal anomaly, or when abortion is needed to protect the mother's life or health.

Arkansas' current law bans abortions except to save the mother's life in a medical emergency. The law took effect when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last year.

Since the court overturned the 1973 decision that had protected abortion rights nationally, voters in all seven states that held a statewide vote have backed abortion rights advocates. Advocates on both sides in at least a dozen states are trying to get abortion-related measures on the 2024 ballot.

Griffin rejected the wording in a letter dated Tuesday, citing "ambiguities" in the text of the proposal. The Republican also said the proposal was "tinged with partisan coloring and misleading" and said it needs to describe the impact it will have on existing law.

"Since the Arkansas Supreme Court has declared that voters are entitled to some information on how the proposed measure would change current law, some such information would need to be provided," Griffin wrote.

The ballot committee said in a written statement to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that it learned of Griffin's decision Tuesday.

"We appreciate the Attorney General's thorough review of and impartial response to the amendment's language," according to the committee chaired by Dr. Hershey Garner.

"Residents want sensible reproductive policy, and Arkansans for Limited Government will begin work immediately with the amendment drafter to craft a revised amendment," the group said. "We are committed to supporting a ballot proposal that is clear for Arkansas voters."

Had Griffin certified the proposal's popular name and ballot title, the ballot committee could begin collecting signatures of registered voters in an effort to qualify the proposed constitutional amendment for the 2024 general election.

Sponsors of proposed constitutional amendments are required to submit 90,704 registered voters' signatures to the secretary of state's office by July 5, 2024. The total must include signatures from registered voters in at least 50 of the state's 75 counties, according to the secretary of state's office.

Upcoming Events