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Abortion-rights coalition launches campaign to put amendment on Missouri ballot

Posted on Thursday, January 25, 2024 at 9:02 pm

A signature gathering effort is officially underway to put a constitutional amendment on the 2024 ballot legalizing abortion up until the point of fetal viability


Missouri Independent

After months of court battles and internal squabbles, a coalition of Missouri abortion-rights organizations plan to officially launch an effort to put a constitutional amendment on the 2024 ballot to legalize abortion up until the point of fetal viability.

Despite reports of discord within the coalition, the campaign has the support of Abortion Action Missouri, the ACLU of Missouri and Planned Parenthood affiliates in Kansas City and St. Louis.

Missouri has one of the most restrictive laws in the country, banning all abortions except in the case of medical emergencies. A political action committee called Missourians for Constitutional Freedom announced it would begin to gather signatures to put an initiative petition on the statewide ballot rolling back that ban.

The coalition estimates it will need to raise $5 million to successfully gather enough signatures to meet the May deadline.

The organization has settled on a version of its 11 initiative petitions that would allow the legislature to “regulate the provision of abortion after fetal viability provided that under no circumstance shall the government deny, interfere with, delay or otherwise restrict an abortion that in the good faith judgment of a treating health care professional is needed to protect the life or physical or mental health of the pregnant person.”

The proposed constitutional amendment won out over other versions, including one that would have sought to make abortion legal up to 24 weeks of pregnancy and another that would have removed any gestational limits on abortion completely.

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

The coalition has until May 5 to gather more than 171,000 valid signatures from across the state. If they succeed in this expensive endeavor, the amendment will appear on the statewide ballot.

A competing Republican-led ballot initiative, which started collecting signatures in November, is seeking to enshrine abortion rights in the constitution up to 12 weeks. It would also allow exceptions for rape and incest.

Dr. Selina Sandoval, who works as a full-time abortion provider in Kansas, said that practically every day she sees patients traveling from Missouri to Kansas for care. She said after the “devastating” news that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, she’s hopeful change may be on the horizon.

“We’re very optimistic. We know that the majority of Americans and the majority of Missourians feel that abortion should be legal and accessible,” said Sandoval, who is also associate medical director at Planned Parenthood Great Plains. “They are risking financial security, they’re having to travel across state lines. And it’s just a very unnecessary, cruel, very unjust ban that we’re facing.”



In the nearly 19 months since the June 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision put abortion laws in state’s hands, voters in seven states have approved ballot measures to preserve or expand abortion access.

Abortion-rights advocates have said they are confident an attempt to expand access would also pass in Missouri. But they were less sure of just how far to go in a state that has veered from a swing state to staunchly Republican over the last two decades.

Proponents settled on viability language, defined in the initiative petition as the point in pregnancy when “there is a significant likelihood of the fetus’s sustained survival outside the uterus without the application of extraordinary medical measures.”

Viability language is also drafted into proposed ballot measures this year in Arizona, Florida, Nebraska and Nevada. Last fall, Ohioans voted to legalize abortion up to the point of viability.

Viability can be difficult to define, though it’s usually determined to be between 20 and 25 weeks gestation. Despite the language being somewhat common in state laws, it’s also controversial. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has dissuaded the use of viability limits in legislation, as there is no single clinical definition of viability.

“Legislative bans on abortion care often overlook unique patient needs, medical evidence, individual facts in a given case, and the inherent uncertainty of outcomes in favor of defining viability solely by gestational ages,” the college wrote in a statement online. “Therefore, ACOG strongly opposes policy makers defining viability or using viability as a basis to limit access to evidence-based care.”

Since 2018, Missouri was already down to just one abortion clinic.