JEFFERSON CITY — A group seeking to add exceptions to Missouri’s near-total ban on abortion said it is sending canvassers into the field to collect signatures in an effort to put a question to voters on the ballot of 2024.
The University City-based Missouri Women and Family Research Fund, led by former congressional aide Jamie Corley, said the signature-gathering process began Friday despite ongoing litigation over the proposed ballot language.
“Missouri has the most extreme abortion ban in the country. This makes it dangerous to be a mother in Missouri and gives rapists more rights than victims. Voters deserve the opportunity to change that,” Corley said.
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Missouri law requires petitioners to collect more than 170,000 signatures by May 2024 in order to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot. Constitutional amendments can be adopted by a simple majority, or 50.1% of the votes.
This effort aims to allow abortion in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormalities and to protect the health and safety of the mother. It would legalize abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Following the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court last year, Missouri law only allows abortion in cases of medical emergency.
It is one of two competing ballot initiatives underway on abortion, both of which have been blocked in court in recent months over ballot summary language proposed by Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who was dismissed in Cole County Circuit Court and the Missouri Court of Appeals in Kansas City.
Although the courts said the Republican’s summaries were “filled with politically partisan language,” Ashcroft appealed those losses to the Missouri Supreme Court.
On Monday, the high court rejected the application, keeping the lower court’s ruling intact, dealing a political blow to Ashcroft, a gubernatorial candidate.
Ashcroft has been at the forefront of the legal effort to counter the ballot initiative process after being supported by the anti-abortion group Missouri Right to Life.
While signature gathering began on the 12-week restriction version, a proposal sought by Missourians for Constitutional Freedom that would restrict abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy had not yet been submitted for signatures at the time of the decision. of the Supreme Court on Monday.
Corley, in a statement released Friday, acknowledged that voter signatures were being sought despite legal challenges, but said it was not uncommon in other states to begin collecting the necessary names before the summaries of the votes are finalized.
It’s unclear exactly how much money the group has raised in its campaign account, but millions of dollars are typically needed to carry out a campaign initiative.
A political action committee was formed in early November and has yet to file reports showing fundraising numbers or expenses.
As part of their campaign, the organization said Missouri hospitals have seen a drop in applications for obstetrics/gynecology residency programs since the abortion ban took effect last year.
The petition calls for protection for women and doctors from criminal and civil penalties. The measure also provides access to contraception.
Other proposed ballot initiatives that are in the signature-gathering phase include an effort to raise the minimum wage and ensure workers receive paid sick leave.
The push to put the questions on the ballot comes as Republicans who control state government continue to call for changes to the initiative petition process aimed at making it harder for voters to burning issues like restoring the right to abortion.
During the spring legislative session, the House approved a plan that would raise the threshold for passing ballot measures from a simple majority to 57 percent. The Senate did not pass the final version before adjourning in May.
This story was updated at 7:24 a.m. to reflect the Missouri Supreme Court’s decision to drop a lower court’s ruling.
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