Missouri abortion-rights campaign backs proposal to enshrine access but allow late-term restrictions

Jan 18, 2024, 4:15 AM

FILE - Abortion-rights supporters take part in a protest, May 30, 2019, in St. Louis. A Missouri ab...

FILE - Abortion-rights supporters take part in a protest, May 30, 2019, in St. Louis. A Missouri abortion-rights campaign on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024, announced it's throwing support behind an amendment to enshrine access in the state constitution while allowing the procedure to be restricted later in pregnancy. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri abortion-rights campaign announced Thursday that it’s throwing support behind an amendment to the state constitution that would enshrine access to the procedure while allowing restrictions in later stages of pregnancy.

Missourians for Constitutional Freedom said it is committing to a proposal, one of 11 versions, that would let lawmakers regulate or ban abortion after what’s called viability, with an exception for the protection of the life and physical and mental health of the woman.

Supporters include the ACLU of Missouri, local Planned Parenthood affiliates and Abortion Action Missouri.

“Missouri’s cruel and restrictive ban on abortion is tying the hands of doctors and preventing necessary care,” said Dr. Iman Alsaden, an adviser to Missourians for Constitutional Freedom and chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, in a statement. “Today, Missourians are taking a critical step to make their own medical decisions and kick politicians out of the exam room.”

The campaign faces steep opposition in its bid to get the proposal on November’s ballot, with the petitions tied up in court for months after being challenged by Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft. Anti-abortion activities on Tuesday launched a campaign to quash any ballot initiative to amend the constitution aimed at bringing abortion back to the state.

Missourians for Constitutional Freedom has funding difficulties, ending 2023 with no money in the bank. Also complicating the effort is a competing ballot measure by a Republican that would allow abortion up to 12 weeks, and after that only in cases of rape, incest and in medical emergencies up until fetal viability.

Missourians for Constitutional Freedom’s announcement comes as abortion activists nationwide are divided over whether to support constitutional amendments that allow any regulation of abortion after viability.

The term is used by health care providers to describe whether a pregnancy is expected to continue developing normally or whether a fetus might survive outside the uterus. It’s generally considered to be around 23 or 24 weeks into pregnancy but has shifted earlier with medical advances. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposes viability language in legislation or regulations.

Executive Director Pamela Merritt in a statement said Medical Students for Choice “is deeply concerned by the trend of state coalitions organizing to enshrine restrictions on abortion access into state constitutions.”

“Codifying the most problematic components of Roe is a tactic that completely rejects the reproductive justice framework, placing greater importance on the rights of some while sacrificing abortion access for people most impacted by abortion bans,” Merritt said.

The decision by Missourians for Constitutional Freedom to include language on viability acknowledges concerns by some that a more expansive proposal would fail to pass in the state, which was among the first to outlaw almost all abortions after Roe v. Wade was overturned.

Current Missouri law includes an exception for medical emergencies, but not in cases of rape and incest.

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Missouri abortion-rights campaign backs proposal to enshrine access but allow late-term restrictions