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Missouri Voters Start Signature Drive to Put Abortion Rights on November Ballot

The amendment would protect abortion access up to “fetal viability,” typically around 22-25 weeks of pregnancy.

Abortion rights activists protest after the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court, in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 24, 2022.

A coalition of abortion rights groups in Missouri has launched a signature drive to place a state constitutional amendment before voters, with hopes of gathering enough names to get abortion on the November ballot.

After the U.S. Supreme Court upended federal abortion protections in a ruling in June of 2022, “trigger laws” banning or severely restricting abortion access took effect in several states. Missouri was the first state whose trigger law was activated, banning the procedure entirely except in cases in which a pregnant person’s life is at risk.

Such exceptions are often not recognized, however, as providers don’t want to risk being charged with violating state laws barring abortion, creating a de facto ban in those cases, too.

Missourians for Constitutional Freedom is a cooperative effort of several groups — including the ACLU of Missouri, Abortion Action Missouri, Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes and Advocates of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri — to get an abortion initiative on the ballot. The coalition’s proposed amendment would protect the right to an abortion in the state up to the point of fetal viability, the time at which a fetus is believed to be able to survive outside of the womb, usually around 22 to 25 weeks of pregnancy.

The proposal would also require the state to use the “least restrictive means” in regulating abortion after that point.

The proposed amendment reads, in part:

The Government shall not deny or infringe upon a person’s fundamental right to reproductive freedom, which is the right to make and carry out decisions about all matters relating to reproductive health care, including but not limited to prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, birth control, abortion care, miscarriage care and respectful birthing conditions.

The coalition must collect signatures equal to 5 percent of the last gubernatorial election in two-thirds of the state’s congressional districts. That means organizers will have to collect around 171,000 names total, distributed across at least six out of the state’s eight districts. The signatures must be submitted by early May.

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

“The decision of whether or not to have an abortion is a personal choice that should be made by Missourians, their families, and their health care providers — not politicians in Jefferson City,” Missourians for Constitutional Freedom states on its website. “Passing this amendment will end our state’s abortion ban and make sure Missourians and their families can once again make the decisions that are best for them.”

While abortion rights initiatives have been successful in other states (and ballot initiatives to further curtail abortion rights have been defeated), Missouri could be a much tighter race. Polling from the summer of 2022 found that 50 percent of Missourians disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision to upend abortion protections, while 47 percent agreed with the ruling. That same poll asked whether residents would support a ballot initiative to legalize abortion again in the state. Forty percent said they would vote against such an initiative, while 48 percent said they would support it. Another 13 percent said they weren’t sure.

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