The Missouri Court of Appeals made a decision on Tuesday to reject the descriptions of abortion-rights ballot measures written by Republicans. The summaries inaccurately portrayed the proposed amendments as permitting “unsafe and unmonitored abortions until the baby is born alive.”
The Western District Court of Appeals’ three-judge panel determined that the summaries created by Jay Ashcroft, a Republican Secretary of State and 2024 gubernatorial candidate, are biased in favor of his political party.
The purpose of ballot summaries in Missouri is to assist voters in comprehending potentially long and intricate constitutional amendments and policy modifications.
Ashcroft’s initial proposal for the amendments, which may be included on the 2024 ballot if enough voter signatures are collected, would inquire of voters if they support permitting “risky, unmonitored, and unrestricted abortions, from fertilization to live delivery, without mandating a medical license or potentially facing medical negligence charges.”
The court of appeals panel stated that permitting unregulated abortion “throughout the entire duration of pregnancy” is not a likely outcome of initiatives.
The judges mostly affirmed the revised summaries of a lower court judge, which were made more unbiased.
The summaries that have been given the green light by the appeals court will inform voters that the amendments will “grant individuals the right to make choices regarding reproductive health care, such as abortion and birth control” and “eliminate Missouri’s prohibition on abortion.”
Ashcroft has stated his intention to challenge the decision.
In a statement, Ashcroft expressed our commitment to our language and our belief that it accurately represents the extent and significance of each petition.
Supporters of abortion rights praised the decision made on Tuesday.
The ACLU of Missouri expressed that the courts have affirmed the constitutional right of Missourians to direct democracy, despite the attempts of self-interested politicians to advance their own careers. They described the decision as a strong rejection of the joint efforts of the Attorney General and Secretary of State to obstruct and deprive Missourians of their right to the initiative process.
The court is being defended by Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s office for Ashcroft’s summary language.
“The citizens of Missouri should have the right to access abortion services and actively engage in the democratic system,” stated Emily Wales, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood’s Great Plains branch. “The court appropriately invalidated language that is deceptive and discriminatory.”
Missouri, along with Ohio and other states, is facing opposition from those against abortion in their efforts to guarantee or bring back access to the procedure after the ruling of Roe v. Wade was overturned last year.
The issue of abortion access will be put to a vote in Ohio during the November election, despite facing legal opposition. In August, voters in the state rejected a proposal that would have made it more difficult to amend the state constitution by requiring a 60% majority, a tactic favored by those against abortion. This would have hindered the process of adopting the November ballot question.
Efforts have been made to safeguard access in the 2024 elections in Maryland and New York. Legislative actions and petitions are being pursued in several states. Initiatives are being taken to ensure or enhance access in Arizona, Florida, Nevada, and South Dakota, while limitations are being proposed in Iowa, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania. Both types of measures are being pursued in Colorado.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, voters in all states with a ballot measure related to abortion have consistently supported the side backed by those in favor of abortion rights. This has made access to abortion a matter determined on a state level.
A recent survey conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research revealed that a majority of voters, even in states with restrictions on abortion throughout all stages of pregnancy, support legal access to abortion in the early stages. Additionally, most voters were in favor of certain restrictions.
This report was contributed to by Heather Hollingsworth, a writer for the Associated Press in Mission, Kansas, and Geoff Mulvihill in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.