Third lawsuit challenges Missouri’s abortion rights petition

Published: Aug. 8, 2023 at 11:47 AM CDT
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMOV) -- Like several other states, some citizens in Missouri want to put abortion rights on the 2024 statewide ballot.

To get something on the ballot, state law states that the question voters are asked needs to be fair and unbiased. The ballot language also has to tell voters how much this change in the law would cost state and local governments, in a section called the “fiscal note summary.”

The state officials in charge of overseeing this whole process, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, Attorney General Andrew Bailey and State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick, are all vocal opponents of abortion rights.

On Monday, three abortion opponents filed a lawsuit challenging the fiscal note summary, saying that it doesn’t accurately represent the financial impact of granting Missourians’ the right to abortion.

This lawsuit is not the first that’s been filed during this petition process. Earlier this year, Bailey wanted the ballot question to show a cost to taxpayers of more than $12 billion, explaining that it accounts for the cost of the possible future abortion of potential Missouri tax payers. The official audit said the cost of such an amendment would be $51,000, an amount cited only by Greene County.

Fitzpatrick disagreed with Bailey and refused to alter his fiscal note. The ACLU sued for resolution and a judge rejected Bailey’s argument that he had the power to reject/alter the fiscal note summary. The AG appealed, and the Missouri Supreme Court batted him down again.

The current fiscal note summary reads as follows:

“State governmental entities estimate no costs or savings, but unknown impact. Local governmental entities estimate costs of at least $51,000 annually in reduced tax revenues. Opponents estimate a potentially significant loss to state revenue.”

Also, a separate lawsuit is being fought over the ballot language drafted by Ashcroft, who is also running for governor.

Ashcroft’s language describes the measure as allowing “dangerous, unregulated, and unrestricted” abortions in the state. The first hearing in the lawsuit over ballot language is scheduled for Sept. 11.

Both suits claim that Ashcroft and Bailey’s intention is to dissuade voters from supporting abortion rights through unlawful and dishonest means.

In the meantime, all these court cases are stalling the process for collecting roughly 170,000 signatures which are due by May 6 in order for a question to be placed on the 2024 ballot.