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The student news website of Omaha Central High School

The Register

The student news website of Omaha Central High School

The Register

New organization looks to put abortion on the ballot

Following a successful year for ballot initiatives supporting abortion nationwide, a Nebraska group decided to launch a petition to get the issue in front of voters. Protect Our Rights, the latest of at least nine campaigns across the country, launched and began gathering signatures last month.  

The ballot initiative aims to amend Nebraska’s state constitution – much like a similar initiative in Ohio – to protect the right to abortion until “fetal viability.” LB574, a bill passed by the Nebraska Legislature in May of 2023, banned abortion after 12 weeks. Sponsored by Kathleen Kauth, the bill also regulated gender affirming care for minors. The ballot initiative was proposed in response to LB574. 

Ashlei Spivey, the executive director of I Be Black Girl, a partner organization of Protect Our Rights, emphasized the importance of the initiative. “We’re really excited,” Spivey said. “I think Ohio’s win showed that when abortion is on the ballot, voters will vote to protect their rights.” 

In 2023, voters in Ohio voted to enshrine the right to abortion in its constitution. In 2022, California, Michigan and Vermont voted for the same thing. Voters in Kansas rejected a ballot initiative aiming to prevent petitioners from enshrining reproductive rights.  

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Spivey explained that Protect Our Rights and its partner organizations are attempting to harness the energy behind the other ballot initiatives to capitalize in Nebraska. “We need about 125,000 signatures to be able to put it on the ballot. Once it is on the ballot, then it’s just a 50% majority to enact it.” 

According to the Nebraska Secretary of State, 10% of registered voters must sign an initiative to add a constitutional amendment, which is what Protect Our Rights aims to do. In addition, signatures must be collected from 5% of the registered voters in 38 of the 93 Nebraska counties.  

So far, organized opposition to the initiative has come from three groups that don’t support the right to abortion. Nebraska Right to Life, the Nebraska Catholic Conference, and the Nebraska Family Alliance released a joint statement condemning Protect Our Rights last month. The statement painted the language of the initiative as “extreme.” 

Spivey said that initiatives across the country have been driven by youth involvement and that Protect Our Rights hopes to get young people involved as a large part of the initiative. “I think, now more than ever, we need young people,” Spivey said. “Young people’s leadership around protecting our civil liberties and rights and abortion access is no different.”  

She said that the ballot initiative was a “key opportunity” for young people to get involved in their first general election and to participate in democracy at large.  

“Young people have a lot of important perspective. I think to not only just participating in this democratic process, but to say, ‘Here’s my point of view, and let’s talk about it,’” Spivey said. “Let’s talk about abortion access and what does this mean for our community and the things that are in front of us. To me, that’s really important.” 

Spivey emphasized that the road to pass the initiative would not be an easy one. “It was a hard mountain to climb. There were roadblocks that opposition put in [through] litigation.” Spivey said that it is imperative that people get their voices heard. “For us, again, it goes back to voters are going to always vote in their best interest. I think it just reminds us that no matter how bumpy this road gets, let’s keep our eye on the prize and what’s really important around people having access to the healthcare they need.” 

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Charlie Yale, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Hi! My name is Charlie (he/him), and I'm a senior. This is my fourth (and final </3) year on staff, and I’m the Co-Editor-in-Chief. I was voted most likely to be blocked by a celebrity on social media by the rest of the Register. I’m an em dash and semicolon enthusiast; I believe that they are — without a doubt — the best articles of punctuation.

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