These States Just Overcame Bonkers Anti-Abortion Tactics

Abortion rights organizers continue to triumph over massive anti-abortion misinformation campaigns to submit well over the signatures required to get on the ballot. Fairness Project’s Kelly Hall talked to Jezebel about how organizers are beating the anti-abortion movement at their own game—and the path to November.

These States Just Overcame Bonkers Anti-Abortion Tactics
Dawn Penich, Communications Director for Arizona for Abortion Access, speaks at the group’s ballot signature turn-in day press conference. Photo: Fairness Project

“Abortion is on the ballot” has become Democrats’ favorite refrain since the Supreme Court killed Roe v. Wade two years ago, and in several states this November, it literally will be. At the end of last week, three states—Arizona, Nebraska, and Arkansas—each submitted well over the number of signatures required to get on the ballot in hopes of enshrining abortion rights into their state Constitutions. (Their respective secretaries of state still need to validate these signatures and approve the proposed measures.)

But collecting the hundreds of thousands of signatures necessary was far more complicated than it should have been. In every state where abortion rights activists are working to get a ballot measure approved, anti-abortion activists are wielding harassment, intimidation campaigns, and outright lies to try and stop their efforts. Deception has become the standard from the anti-abortion movement, Kelly Hall, executive director of Fairness Project, told Jezebel, because “they know or fear they’re going to lose a conversation about the substance of the issue.”

In Arizona, the Arizona for Abortion Access campaign shared with Jezebel that they submitted over 820,000 signatures on Wednesday—well over the state’s 383,923 requirement. That means one in five of all registered voters in Arizona signed in support of abortion rights. This comes in the aftermath of the state Supreme Court’s first ruling that a Civil War-era, criminal abortion ban in the state could take effect…though it’s since been blessedly blocked. Still, abortion is banned at 15 weeks.

Meanwhile, in Nebraska, an abortion rights group on Wednesday submitted 207,000 signatures, which is almost double the 123,000 required to qualify for the ballot. (Abortion is currently banned at 12 weeks in the state.) And in Arkansas, which has a total abortion ban (and threatens abortion providers with up to 10 years in prison), abortion rights organizers submitted more than 100,000 signatures, well over the 90,700 signatures required. 

The groundswell of support for abortion rights—even in deep red states and swing states—is unsurprising to Hall, whose organization has been fundraising and organizing for abortion rights ballot measures across the country including in Arizona. (They also supported the Ohio abortion measure that overwhelmingly won in November.)

“A lot of our political coverage is presented through this partisan lens with voters thinking of themselves as ‘red’ or ‘blue,’ but people support a lot of different issues across the spectrum regardless of political identity,” Hall said. “We’re seeing overwhelming support for abortion rights, record-shattering numbers of people saying ‘we want to vote on this issue ourselves and this shouldn’t be political football.’”

Across the board, abortion rights are popular. Bans, Hall stressed, tend to be a result of gerrymandered legislatures and voter suppression, and threats to abortion rights are often part of broader threats to democracy. “They’re fighting reproductive rights by trying to keep voters from participating in direct democracy. If they had confidence the electorate is with them, they’re able to persuade voters, why not have an open and fair vote?” Hall said. “Inherent in the tactics they’re [anti-abortion politicians and activists] choosing is an admission that they know abortion bans are unpopular, so let’s change the rules of the game, or lie, or make this all too complicated.”

Voter suppression tactics, through disinformation and intimidation campaigns or, as we saw in Ohio, quite literally eliminating voters from voter rolls en masse, have become the weapon of choice for anti-abortion activists and politicians to fight these proposed ballot measures. We’ve seen this in each of the three states that submitted signatures last week. 

In Arkansas, just days before organizers submitted the signatures, anti-abortion activists sent deceitful emails to voters, lying that the abortion rights campaign had collected enough signatures and no more were needed, Arkansas Times reported on Thursday. The email came from “[email protected].” Arkansans for Limited Government spokeswoman Rebecca Bobrow told the Times that the email comprised “not only an ugly tactic aimed at hampering our people-powered movement, but also a serious crime that we will treat as such.” Bobrow continued, “Once again, the opposition has proven that they know they can’t win without employing lies and fraud. The people of Arkansas are on the right side of this issue and all this silly little email has succeeded in doing is energizing us for these final hours.” Also in Arkansas, the influential anti-abortion group Arkansas Family Council doxxed Arkansans for Limited Government organizers, sharing their names and hometowns, accusing them of supporting infanticide, and exposing them to the threat of violence. 

Similarly, earlier this year, Politico reported on Arizona anti-abortion activists openly surveilling, stalking, video recording, and harassing organizers who were collecting signatures for the abortion rights measure. And in Nebraska, a spokesperson for Protect Our Rights—the group leading the charge to get the abortion rights measure on the ballot—told Jezebel last week that it’s heard of “hundreds of instances” of the anti-abortion group Protect Women & Children lying to voters that their anti-abortion measure is “pro-choice.” (That group is one of several anti-abortion groups trying to get a ballot measure that would codify a 12-week abortion ban into the state Constitution.) Nebraska’s secretary of state told the Associated Press earlier this month that it’s received dozens of requests to remove signatures from abortion-related ballot petitions after these voters say they were compelled to sign under false pretenses.

As we await confirmation on whether the abortion rights measures will be on the ballot in Arizona, Nebraska, and Arkansas, Hall says we can expect the shameful tactics deployed by anti-abortion groups to continue between now and November, if the measures are approved.

So far, South Dakota, Maryland, Colorado, Nevada, and Florida have approved abortion rights ballot measures for November. Like Arizona, Nebraska, and Arkansas, Montana and Missouri have also submitted the required signatures to get their own measures on the ballot, pending approval. Come November, these measures could face uphill battles in each of their states but Hall stressed that no state should ever be written off as too “red” for an abortion rights victory. “The massive number of signatures that have been submitted, the momentum and enthusiasm—it’s a huge testament to the organizers on the ground in these states,” she said. “The conversations happening on the ground have been incredible, and I can’t stress enough the energy and engagement we’re seeing.”

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin