Missouri Supreme Court allows abortion ballot initiative to proceed

St. Louis March, Missouri

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a ballot initiative to enshrine a “right” to abortion in the state’s constitution can proceed, despite the opposition of Attorney General Andrew Bailey. Bailey had previously attempted to delay the initiative, arguing that estimates of its true cost were incorrect.

According to the New York Times, the state auditor, Scott Fitzpatrick, estimated the ballot initiative’s impact would run roughly $51,000 in reduced local tax revenue. Bailey refused to approve that number, arguing instead that the impact would cost taxpayers nearly $12 million due to fewer births and a loss of Medicaid funding. Without his approval, the secretary of state was unable to complete his work on the summary and ballot organizers were unable to proceed with collecting their petition signatures. The ACLU subsequently sued Bailey for holding up the process.

In its ruling the Supreme Court determined that Bailey was not justified in delaying his approval, noting that his job was to review the “legal content and form” of the auditor’s reports, “not their substance.” In his verdict, Judge Paul Wilson noted that Bailey should have quickly approved the numbers when they were first presented to him in March.

“The attorney general was to have performed that task within 10 days of receiving the fiscal notes and summaries from the auditor, a period that expired more than three months ago,” Wilson wrote, later adding: “Because of this logjam, the (secretary of state) could not — and, to this day, cannot — complete his duty by certifying the official ballot titles for the proposed petitions.”

Following the ruling, Bailey’s office released a statement saying it disagreed “with the court’s decision, as we believe Missourians deserve to know how much this amendment would cost the state, but we will respect the court’s order.”

“While today is a tremendous victory for Missourians and the right to direct democracy, it is clear that some who hold office will not hesitate to trample the constitution if it advances their personal interests and political beliefs,” said Luz María Henríquez, the executive director of the ACLU of Missouri.

Nearly all preborn children in Missouri are currently protected from abortion, with a few exceptions for medical emergencies. If the ballot initiative succeeds in gathering enough petition signatures, voters in the state could decide to repeal these protections and radically change the status of abortion in next year’s election.

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