Missouri abortion-rights campaign turns in more than double the needed signatures to get on ballot

May 3, 2024, 9:07 AM

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Advocates on Friday turned in more than twice the needed number of signatures to put a proposal to legalize abortion on the Missouri ballot this year.

The campaign said it turned in more than 380,000 voter signatures — more than double the minimum 171,000 needed to qualify for the ballot.

“Our message is simple and clear,” ACLU Missouri lawyer and campaign spokesperson Tori Schafer said in a statement. “We want to make decisions about our bodies free from political interference.”

If approved by voters, the constitutional amendment would ensure abortion rights until viability.

A moderate, Republican-led Missouri campaign earlier this year abandoned an effort for an alternate amendment that would have allowed abortion up to 12 weeks and after that with only limited exceptions.

Like many Republican-controlled states, Missouri outlawed almost all abortions with no exceptions in the case of rape or incest immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. Missouri law only allows abortions for medical emergencies.

There has been a movement to put abortion rights questions to voters following the 2022 decision. So far, voters in seven states — California, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Ohio and Vermont — have sided with abortion rights supporters on ballot measures.

It’s not clear yet how many states will vote on measures to enshrine abortion access in November. In some, the question is whether amendment supporters can get enough valid signatures. In others, it’s up to the legislature. And there’s legal wrangling in the process in some states.

In Missouri, it’s now up to Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft to check the validity of the abortion-rights campaign’s signatures.

Signature-gathering efforts by the campaign were delayed in part because of a legal battle with Ashcroft last year over how to word the abortion question if it gets on the ballot.

Ashcroft had proposed asking voters whether they are in favor of allowing “dangerous and unregulated abortions until live birth.”

A state appeals court in October said the wording was politically partisan.

Meanwhile, Republican state lawmakers in Missouri are feuding over another proposed constitutional amendment that would raise the bar for voters to enact future constitutional amendments.

The hope is that the changes would go before voters on the August primary ballot, so the higher threshold for constitutional amendments would be in place if the abortion-rights amendment is on the November ballot.

A faction of Senate Republicans staged a days-long filibuster this week in an attempt to more quickly force the constitutional amendment through the Legislature. But the House and Senate passed different versions of the proposal, and there are only two weeks left before lawmakers’ deadline to pass legislation.

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Missouri abortion-rights campaign turns in more than double the needed signatures to get on ballot