Arizona businesses have partnered with an abortion rights organization to help collect petition signatures that would put a constitutional amendment making abortion legal in the state on the November ballot.
The effort was coordinated by Arizonans for Reproductive Freedom, a coalition of health care professionals and advocates whose goal is to collect 356,467 voter signatures before the July 7 deadline. If the endorsement goal is met, Arizonans will have a chance to vote in November if they want to make abortion a constitutional right in the state or not.
The organization submitted the petition application to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office on May 16, two weeks after the draft leak of the Supreme Court’s opinion overturning Roe v. Wade.
Within hours following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade — eliminating abortion as a protected constitutional right — thousands took to the streets across the state to speak against the ruling. Others held demonstrations to celebrate it throughout the weekend.
Following the decision, abortion rights organizations in Arizona issued an emergency motion on Saturday asking the federal court to block the law from prevailing to protect health care workers who perform abortions from being charged with assault or child abuse felonies.
The majority of abortion clinics in Arizona have already stopped providing services on Friday out of fear of facing criminal charges related to two state laws on the books banning abortion.
The newest out of the two was passed in April 2021 and prohibits abortion at 15 weeks, except in cases to save the mother's life. The law could take effect 90 days after the state Legislature adjourned, which would be Sept. 24.
Physicians who violate the law could face felony charges and the removal of their professional licenses.
Another ban, which dates back to pre-statehood, criminalizes helping someone access abortion, except to save the mother's life, and calls for a mandatory prison sentence of two to five years for violators.
It is unclear which of the two state laws could prevail following the Supreme Court ruling.
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What the abortion rights measure would do
The proposed constitutional amendment would create a new right for Arizonans to make decisions about abortion, contraception, prenatal care, childbirth, infertility care and related services.
The amendment would take power away from the government to "restrict, penalize, frustrate or otherwise interfere" with any of those rights, including "pre-viability" abortions, or interfere with nonmedical reproductive services.
Abortions would still be limited by the viability of the fetus, as they are now, but with no set time frame as a firm rule. Viability would be defined by a "good faith medical judgment" of a licensed health care professional that a fetus would survive, with or without artificial support, the initiative states.
What Arizona businesses are doing to support measure
As of Monday afternoon, more than 25 businesses across the state — with a majority of them concentrated in Pima County — had partnered up with Arizonans for Reproductive Freedom in an effort to collect the over 300,000 signatures needed to get the measure on the ballot.
The owner of Phoenix-based Tres Leches Cafe, Magali Martinez Saenz, is one of the businesses that will be taking part in the signature-collection efforts on Monday evening.
Martinez said she, her husband and her kids went out on Friday night to the Arizona Capitol to protest for reproductive rights. She said she initially felt safe participating in the demonstration until she heard tear gas warnings from other protesters.
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"Not even a couple minutes later we started seeing them shoot canisters from the windows. We were so scared, the kids were terrified," she said. "We had a right to be there, they have absolutely no reason to shoot out into crowds of families. So, what else can we do? I can't demonstrate, I can't be out there with my 2-month-old baby."
She said she then came across the petition initiative from Arizonans for Reproductive Freedom on social media.
"We know that we have to do something," she said. "We're hosting this event (on Monday) because we know that it impacts our demographic, our community directly."
Gabe Hagen, one of the owners of Brick Road Coffee in Tempe, said he believes it's important for Arizonans to have a chance to decide on the ballot if they want to keep abortion legal in the state.
"If they want to leave it to the states, let the states decide. If that's what they want, then the people need their voices heard," he said.
For Hagen, the signature collection process should not be a necessary step to let the people cast their vote on the matter, he said.
"This is what we have to do, so this is what we will do," he said. "What I'm seeing here, what I have been experiencing is just so much support. I do believe we'll be able to meet the deadline."
Petition events will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday at Tres Leches Cafe and from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Brick Road Coffee.
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Tucson shops also gathering signatures
Tucson businesses also have partnered with Arizonans for Reproductive Freedom to help gather signatures for the petition.
The Gloo Factory, at 238 E. 26th St., is a full-service print shop in south Tucson and one such partner.
“We’ve been printing all the petitions,” said Samantha Thomas, who works at the Gloo Factory.
She said the Gloo Factory has people picking up the petitions to then going to collect signatures while they are also mailing out between 25,000 and 45,000 petitions beyond Tucson’s bounds.
The Gloo Factory decided to partner with the organization because they were already “very involved with south Tucson” and political campaigns in the Democratic party, so it was a no-brainer, Thomas said.
While there has not been too much traffic yet, Thomas said the partnership is very new and they expect more people to come in as the week goes on.
There are several other businesses in Tucson that have petitions available for pickup, most of which are located downtown or on Historic Fourth Avenue, with a few scattered elsewhere. The easternmost locations are Revolutionary Grounds Books & Coffee and the Pima Democratic Party, both located near Speedway Boulevard and Swan Road.
Although Pima County and Maricopa County have the most available locations to sign, Pinal, Graham, Santa Cruz, Coconino and Yavapai counties also each have one location.
Additional locations accepting signatures can be found on the Arizonans for Reproductive Freedom’s website.
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Republic reporter Ray Stern contributed to this article.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Abortion rights petition: Arizona businesses collect signatures