A Service of UA Little Rock
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Arkansas group collecting signatures to roll back abortion ban

Ballot themes on ballots this November include marijuana, elections, education, guns, tobacco, minimum wage and the death penalty.
Meg Kelly
Arkansans for Limited Government has until July 5 to collect all the needed signatures to place an amendment rolling back the state's abortion restrictions on the November ballot.

A group in Arkansas has less than 150 days to collect enough signatures to put abortion on the ballot in 2024.

For AR People is a nonprofit advocacy group organizing the effort to pass the Arkansas Abortion Amendment. This law would legalize abortion for up to 18 weeks of pregnancy or in cases of rape or incest.

Abortion became illegal in June of 2022, after Roe v. Wade was overturned. At that time, a trigger law went into effect which banned all abortions in Arkansas except to save the life of the mother.

The amendment was originally put forth by the group Arkansans for Limited Government, a ballot question committee formed by For AR People. After several failed attempts, Attorney General Tim Griffin approved the ballot title in January. For AR People is required to collect over 90,000 signatures from across the state in under 150 days to place it on the November ballot.

Gennie Diaz is the executive director of For AR People. She says there are several different reasons she supports the amendment.

“I am a woman of reproductive age and ability,” she said. “And I know what it's like to walk around and live in a state with a near-total abortion ban.”

For AR People is using an entirely volunteer army of people to collect signatures. Allison Sweatman, who is working to collect signatures, says they have trained 154 people as volunteers.

“Even while still building and training this volunteer force, we've been able to collect 3,550 signatures in under two weeks,” she said.

Diaz hopes that by the end of the month, the group could have up to 500 volunteers.

“We have to build the plane as we are flying it,” she said. “It's gone really well so far.”

Diaz said the signature gathering plan is similar to that held by CAPES, or Citizens for Arkansas Public Education and Students. That group came in less than 1,000 signatures short on their attempt to overturn the education overhaul known as Arkansas LEARNS.

Diaz says, when collecting signatures, she tries to reframe the purpose of the petition.

“The first thing we say is, do you want to sign a petition to put the Arkansas Abortion Amendment on the ballot? A lot of times people will ask 'Is this for abortion or against abortion?' We explain that, by signing, it's neither," she said. "By signing, it's saying you think this particular ballot initiative should be placed on the ballot.”

She says people are often surprised to learn that Arkansas has a near-total abortion ban.

Volunteer organizations that collect and gather signatures can be hard to wrangle. As previously reportedby Little Rock Public Radio, volunteers have to take time off work and drive to rural counties to collect signatures for free. But Diaz believes they will be successful. She thinks the number of people signing up to volunteer is proof.

Polling in Arkansas has consistently shown mixed feelings on abortion access. The University of Arkansas' annual Arkansas Poll last year showed that only 38% of people supported making abortion easier to access. 29% of Arkansans support making it more difficult, while 25% said they would like to see no change.

For AR People has until July 5 to collect all the signatures. If they succeed, the amendment will be put on the ballot in November.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.