Nebraska could see its first abortion-related ballot measures with signatures submitted for competing initiatives

In Nebraska, two competing campaigns sponsoring abortion-related constitutional amendments each submitted over 200,000 signatures on July 3. The constitutional amendments would appear on the Nov. 5, 2024, general election ballot.

Two competing campaigns sponsoring abortion-related constitutional amendments filed over 200,000 signatures each with the secretary of state on July 3, aiming to qualify the initiatives for the Nov. ballot. If one or both qualify, this will be the first time that Nebraska voters have decided on an abortion-related ballot measure.

Protect Our Rights is sponsoring an amendment that would add a new section to the Nebraska Constitution providing a right to abortion until fetal viability, which is defined in the initiative’s text as “the point in pregnancy when, in the professional judgment of the patient’s treating health care practitioner, there is a significant likelihood of the fetus’ sustained survival outside of the uterus without the application of extraordinary medical measures.”

The initiative has received endorsements from the ACLU of Nebraska, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Nebraska, Women’s Fund of Omaha, Nebraska Civic Engagement Table, and Nebraska Appleseed.

Ashlei Spivey, a member of Protect Our Rights’ executive committee, said, “As mothers, doctors, families, concerned citizens and people navigating pregnancy, we were united in the belief that patients and providers should have the freedom to make their own health care decisions, not politicians.”

The second initiative would amend the state constitution to prohibit abortions after the first trimester unless necessitated by a medical emergency or the pregnancy is a result of sexual assault or incest. The amendment is sponsored by Protect Women & Children. SBA Pro-Life America, Nebraska Catholic Conference, and Nebraska Right to Life have endorsed the amendment.

SBA Pro-Life America Western Regional Director Adam Schwend said, “Protect Women & Children’s ballot measure stands in stark contrast to the ACLU’s all-trimester abortion amendment. By giving voters a reasonable alternative, we will put a stop to the abortion lobby’s attempt to enshrine second- and third-trimester abortion, eliminate parental rights, and eviscerate health and safety protections for women.”

Currently, Nebraska state law prohibits abortion after 12 weeks with exceptions for rape, incest, and saving the mother’s life. 

According to the state constitution, “If conflicting measures submitted to the people at the same election be approved, the one receiving the highest number of affirmative votes shall thereby become law as to all conflicting provisions.”

To qualify for an initiated constitutional amendment in Nebraska, the number of signatures required is equal to 10% of registered voters as of the deadline for filing signatures. As of July 1, the secretary of state reported 1,234,652 registered voters, making the signature requirement 123,465 valid signatures. Nebraska law also features a distribution requirement mandating that petitions contain signatures from 5% of the registered voters in each of two-fifths (38) of Nebraska’s 93 counties.

From 1970 to November 2023, there were 54 abortion-related statewide ballot measures, none appearing on the ballot in Nebraska. Of the 54, 43 measures (80%) had the support of organizations that described themselves as pro-life. Voters approved 11 (26%) and rejected 32 (74%) of these 43 ballot measures. The other 11 abortion-related ballot measures had the support of organizations that described themselves as pro-choice or pro-reproductive rights. Voters approved eight (73%) and rejected three (27%).

The states with the highest number of abortion-related ballot measures were Colorado (nine), Oregon (six), California (four), and Washington (four). 

In 2024, voters in six states—Colorado, Florida, Maryland, New York, Nevada, and South Dakota—will be deciding on abortion, with measures proposed in five other states including Nebraska.

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