Group's proposed constitutional amendment would bar state from restricting access to abortion

Protesters gather at the Arkansas State Capitol to oppose the overturning of  Roe v. Wade and the Arkansas trigger law making abortions illegal in this 2022 file photo.(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)
Protesters gather at the Arkansas State Capitol to oppose the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the Arkansas trigger law making abortions illegal in this 2022 file photo.(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

A ballot committee, calling itself Arkansans for Limited Government, has proposed a constitutional amendment that would bar 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 pregnant woman’s life or health.

Arkansas’ current law bans abortions except to the save the life of the mother in a medical emergency.

“When it comes to personal healthcare, Arkansans know what’s best for their families, and the state shouldn’t pretend to play ‘doctor’ or know better,” said doctor and attorney Hershey Garner, chairman of the Arkansans for Limited Government committee, in a news release.

“These matters are deeply personal and should be between an individual and their medical provider,” he said.

The Arkansans for Limited Government committee, chaired by Garner, submitted its proposed constitutional amendment with a proposed popular name and proposed ballot title to Attorney General Tim Griffin’s office Nov. 9, according to records in the attorney general’s office.

The deadline for Griffin to take action on the proposed popular name and ballot title is Tuesday at the close of business, said Griffin spokesman Jeff LeMaster.

The Republican attorney general’s options include certifying the popular name and ballot title as submitted, rejecting the entire submission, giving the reasons for the rejection and instructing the sponsor to redesign the measure, or substituting and certifying a more appropriate popular name or ballot title.

Certifying the proposal’s popular name and ballot title would clear the way for the Arkansans for Limited Government ballot committee to begin collecting signatures of registered voters in an effort to qualify the proposed constitutional amendment for the 2024 general election ballot.

Sponsors of proposed constitutional amendments are required to submit 91,704 signatures of registered voters to the secretary of state’s office by July 5, 2024. The total must include signatures from voters in at least 50 counties, according to the secretary of state’s office.

On June 24, 2022, then-Attorney General Leslie Rutledge implemented a 2019 law that bans abortions in Arkansas, except to save the life of the mother in a medical emergency, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 landmark ruling that legalized abortion across the country.

Rutledge, a Republican who is now lieutenant governor, certified that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling in accordance with Act 180 of 2019. That in turn certified Arkansas’ Trigger Abortion law.

The GOP-dominated Legislature and Gov. Asa Hutchinson enacted Act 180 in the 2019 regular session. Act 180, sponsored by then-Sen. Jason Rapert, is called the Arkansas Human Life Protection Act.