State Officials Are Right To Sound Alarm on Pro-Abortion Ballot Measures

By Marjorie Dannenfelser, President, SBA Pro-Life America, originally published in Newsweek Opinion, February 8, 2024

The abortion industry has proven that it will go to extremes to get no-limit, abortion-on-demand policies enshrined in state constitutions.

Last year in Ohio, Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups spent in excess of $58 million to push a constitutional amendment that allows abortion through all nine months of pregnancy and undercuts parental rights. As part of the push to get the amendment passed, they relied on deceptive messaging about emergency care for miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies, claiming that women were unable to get such care under Ohio’s laws limiting abortion. This messaging prompted the state’s department of health to issue a letter directly refuting it.

Now, in an effort to get extreme abortion amendments on the ballot in as many as seven pro-life states later this year, the abortion industry is once again proving that it will mislead voters to accomplish its goals. Ballot campaigns are already underway in Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Arkansas, South Dakota, and Arizona. Despite these states demonstrating a strong commitment to protecting life and supporting women, abortion groups are banking on broad, vaguely worded amendments to undo decades of common-sense, pro-life laws.

States have careful rules about what goes on a ballot so that citizens aren’t deceived by well-heeled, out-of-state special interest groups. In many cases, these rules allow state attorneys general to step in and challenge vague and deceptive ballot measures on behalf of voters. Attorneys general are the first line of defense to ensure that citizens know exactly what they are voting for or against. Their role provides an important check on the ballot initiative process.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office went before the state’s highest court on Wednesday to stop a vague ballot measure that, if it passes, will allow abortion on demand in Florida. Moody, who has challenged ballot initiatives before, called the proposed amendment “one of the worst I have seen,” noting that it misleads Floridians and fails to stick to the state’s single-subject requirement for ballot measures.

The attorney general also pointed out that while the amendment would allow abortion through “viability,” it fails to define the term, meaning that abortion could be allowed late in a pregnancy and well after an unborn baby can feel pain. Such vague language, Moody noted in a legal brief, will “enable abortion proponents later to argue that the amendment has a much broader meaning than voters would ever have thought.”

Attorneys general in other states are raising similar concerns with proposed constitutional amendments and proactively challenging them before they reach the ballot. In Montana, Attorney General Austin Knudsen stopped a proposed amendment that combined several different abortion-related choices into a single measure. And in Arkansas, Attorney General Tim Griffin rejected misleading ballot language. Attorney General Andrew Bailey in Missouri went to great lengths to fight against the deception in the abortion amendments before an activist court ultimately sided with the abortion industry.

These officials are right to sound the alarm, and the case of Michigan shows why. When an extreme abortion amendment, known as Proposal 3, was on the state ballot, its backers assured Michiganders that the amendment would not gut parental consent and notification laws or remove common-sense health and safety protections. After the amendment passed, Governor Gretchen Whitmer referred to parental consent laws and abortion restrictions as “unconstitutional” under Prop 3, and signed a law eliminating health and safety regulations for the state’s abortion clinics.

Michigan’s extreme abortion policies risk becoming the norm in states across the country if overly broad abortion amendments are permitted on ballots. State officials must continue to hold the abortion industry accountable and expose any attempts to mislead, confuse, or deceive voters. The stakes are high, and voters in every state deserve a clear understanding of exactly what they are voting on when they head to the polls this November. All pro-life leaders—from U.S. senators and members of Congress to governors and state legislators—must join attorneys general and articulate the extreme policies behind abortion industry amendments.

Marjorie Dannenfelser is president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.