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Abortion rights activists set their sights on Arizona after Ohio win

A top progressive group wants to build on the huge success Democrats are having with abortion-related ballot initiatives — this time in Arizona.

Fresh off their 14-point victory in Ohio on Tuesday, progressive groups are eyeing the Southwest battleground state as the next place to ensure abortion rights after the fall of Roe v. Wade. Arizona currently bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

“National Democratic donors and stakeholders should look to Arizona as the next state with a serious, layered return on investment for putting abortion on the ballot,” says a memo from the progressive organizing group Indivisible, shared first with POLITICO.

The memo to donors argues that Democrats should continue to ride the backlash to the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization into 2024 in key competitive states across the country. In a potentially tough presidential year, Democrats think abortion ballot initiatives can give the rest of their ticket an edge.

A ballot initiative in Arizona would increase the “likelihood that pro-choice voters turn out to vote, boosting Democratic candidates up and down the ticket in a state with numerous, must-win competitive races at the Presidential, Senate, House, and state legislative level,” the memo continues.

“We are still very much in a post-Roe environment, where the threat feels real to people, and they are responding accordingly,” Mari Urbina, the acting co-executive director of the group, said in a brief interview.

Arizona is expected to again be among a handful of states that could decide the presidential election. President Joe Biden narrowly carried the state in 2020, the first Democrat to do so since Bill Clinton in 1996. Biden stopped there on Tuesday to designate the land surrounding the Grand Canyon as a national monument that would preserve 1,500 square miles of land.

The state will have a crucial Senate race and a pair of battleground House districts. Republicans in Arizona are also defending two-seat majorities in both legislative chambers next year.

Indivisible cited polling it conducted recently with Data for Progress to argue that Arizona “has a unique and strong pro-choice streak that crosses party lines, motivating Democrats and muddying the waters for many Republican voters,” suggesting it could make the difference in close contests next year.

And a recent national survey from CNN finds abortion rights remains top of mind for voters. Sixty-four percent of adults said they disapprove of the court’s overturning of Roe, including 50 percent of adults who “strongly disapprove.” Both numbers are virtually unchanged from a similar CNN survey in July 2022, suggesting voters have not moved on the issue.

Abortion in Arizona is currently prohibited after 15 weeks of pregnancy, although in 2022 then-Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich argued unsuccessfully after the Supreme Court’s ruling that a 19th-century, pre-statehood law banning the procedure almost entirely should be in effect.

Arizonans tried and failed to get an initiative codifying abortion rights on the ballot after the fall of Roe. The largely grassroots effort collected 175,000 signatures to try to qualify for the 2022 midterm ballot in the roughly two months after POLITICO reported on the draft opinion that would ultimately overturn nationwide abortion protections. But organizers ran out of time ahead of a July deadline to qualify, collecting only about half of the needed signatures.

They vowed to return for the 2024 election. And already, notable national abortion rights groups are pledging resources. Earlier this week, a coalition of groups — including the state chapters of the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and NARAL — announced that they would support a new political committee, Arizona for Abortion Access, to sponsor a ballot initiative campaign for 2024. Activists in Arizona released their proposed constitutional amendment language on Tuesday that could appear on the November 2024 ballot.

Indivisible’s memo said its volunteers would aim to collect “tens of thousands of signatures” for the abortion ballot measure.

“The unique value-add we offer in a battleground state like Arizona … is the volunteer apparatus that we can offer in a ballot initiative is really special,” Urbina, the group’s acting co-executive director, said. “So we want to do all the work that we can to be strong and to be ready on an issue that is so unifying for Democrats and independents and other Arizonans as well.”

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