Nebraska Anti-Abortion Activists Are Calling Their Ballot Measure ‘Pro-Choice’

The Nebraska Secretary of State’s office says it’s received dozens of requests to remove signatures from abortion-related petitions after these voters say they were compelled to sign under false pretenses.

Nebraska Anti-Abortion Activists Are Calling Their Ballot Measure ‘Pro-Choice’

Nebraska anti-abortion activists are using deceitful means to get voters to sign their anti-abortion ballot measure to codify a 12-week ban in the state Constitution, the Associated Press reported on Monday. (Abortion is currently banned at 12 weeks in the state, but this proposal by anti-abortion groups would make this substantially harder to undo.) One voter, a woman named Tea Rohrberg, told the AP that she signed one of these petitions after the anti-abortion group Protect Women and Children told her theirs was a “pro-choice” petition. When Rohrberg learned what she’d actually signed, she asked for her signature to be removed: “I was like, ‘No, I just want my name off it.’ Then he [the Protect Women and Children volunteer] said, ‘Well then just vote no later.’”

So, Rohrberg filed a notarized affidavit to the Nebraska Secretary of State’s office to get her signature removed because it was collected under false pretenses. According to the AP, as of Friday, the secretary of state’s office has received 91 requests to have signatures removed from abortion-related petitions after being collected under deceitful pretenses. Just seven of those 91 requests involved Nebraska’s pro-abortion rights petition, run by Protect Our Rights, which would enshrine a right to abortion in the state Constitution. Several anti-abortion groups have been circulating petitions to get on the November ballot and try to ban abortion, but 67 of these 91 requests stem from Protect Women and Children alone.

All of this comes as the deadline looms: Groups working to get a ballot measure approved have to submit 123,000 valid signatures by Wednesday.

“Since its launch, Protect Women and Children has lied to Nebraskans about their true intentions for Cornhusker state,” Allie Berry, campaign manager of Protect Our Rights, told Jezebel. “Unfortunately, we have heard of hundreds of instances of Protect Women and Children misrepresenting their campaign to Nebraska voters. They are desperate to trick voters into giving up their rights and have done everything from calling themselves ‘pro-choice’ and a ‘compromise solution,’ to even bullying community members to sign their petition.”

Protect Women and Children is an effort led by the anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ Nebraska Family Alliance. “Life is a human right, and women, children, and families in Nebraska deserve real love and support, not dangerous proposals that jeopardize the health and safety of women and end the lives of precious baby boys and girls,” it states on its website, adding, “Nebraskans will decide: Will we be the first state to defeat the abortion industry and establish basic constitutional protections for preborn children?”

This language, and Protect Women and Children volunteers’ apparent use of “pro-choice” language, align with what we’ve been seeing from the anti-abortion movement in recent years, especially as it reckons with its own well-earned unpopularity. Anti-abortion activists have increasingly been co-opting feminist language, attempting to frame abortion as dangerous and harmful for women and their unborn daughters, and often pushing slogans and messaging that we “deserve better.” Of course, what we “deserve” are bodily autonomy and access to the full range of health care services, and time and again, abortion bans have endangered pregnant people and even their pregnancies.

As Nebraskans try to enshrine a right to abortion in the state Constitution, resistance from anti-abortion activists by way of deceit has become alarmingly commonplace. That’s probably because, across the board, polling shows the abject popularity of abortion rights, and abortion-related ballot measures have seen overwhelming success, too. 

In 2022, Kansas anti-abortion activists used methods similar to Nebraska’s Protect Women and Children effort, framing their anti-abortion measure to remove a right to abortion from the state Constitution as “pro-women” and an act of “valuing them both.” This was despite how anti-abortion lawmakers in support of the ballot measure openly supported fetal personhood.

More recently, in Missouri, anti-abortion groups texted voters en masse lying that signing in support of an abortion rights ballot measure would compromise their “private data.” (Nonetheless, abortion rights activists managed to submit well over the required number of signatures to qualify for the ballot.) Also in May, anti-abortion activists in South Dakota posed as government officials to call and harass voters to try to get them to revoke their signatures from a similar abortion rights measure.

“Nebraskans don’t like” deceit, Berry said, “and that’s why we’ve seen record enthusiasm for our campaign.” Protect Our Rights will submit signatures to the secretary of state’s office and hold a press conference on Wednesday.

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