Both sides of the abortion debate are criticizing six initiative petitions filed last week seeking to add rape and incest exceptions to abortion restriction in Missouri.
Filed by Republican political operative Jamie Corley with assistance from Democratic attorney Chuck Hatfield, the proposed constitutional amendments are being pitched as a middle ground between the ban currently in place and more expansive proposals filed earlier this year by abortion-rights supporters. Yet almost as soon as the proposals became public, pro-life groups claimed they were are too expansive, and abortion-rights proponents argued they are punitively restrictive.
But pro-life advocates say they could “up-end” all of the state’s pro-life laws.
Corley contends that the reality is the proposals are an attempt to craft a politically palatable plan that ends a total ban.
“Women shouldn’t have to live in fear during pregnancy, and doctors shouldn’t have to think about criminal charges when they’re treating patients,” Corley said. “We have to change this law now, and we have to give Missourians the opportunity to vote on an abortion petition that can actually pass.”
Missouri Right to Life, the state’s largest pro-life organization, sent an alert to members warning them that Corley’s proposed amendments seek to “nullify current Missouri laws that protect pregnant women and their unborn babies.”
When a judge ruled in July that the petitions could go forward, MRL stated, “We anticipate the pro-abortion crowd will begin gathering signatures statewide for these initiative petitions in the coming weeks to seek to enshrine a “right to abortion” in our Missouri Constitution.”
Sam Lee, a longtime pro-life activist with Campaign for Life, contends that adding exceptions for “health or safety” of the mother would mean “abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy. Each of the six is devilishly crafted to confuse voters into thinking that only abortions for ‘hard case’ exceptions would be allowed. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Recent polling indicates Missouri voters are open to rolling back the state’s near-total ban, with 58 percent of respondents to a recent St. Louis University survey saying abortion should be legal in the first eight weeks, 75 percent favoring exceptions for rape and 87 percent when the life of the mother is endangered. The poll found only 40 percent of those surveyed favor allowing abortion up to 15 weeks of pregnancy, though 48 percent said they would support an initiative petition overturning Missouri’s abortion ban, with 40 percent saying they would vote against repeal and 13 percent unsure.
Missouri law requires petitioners to collect more than 170,000 signatures by May to put a vote to the people.
“We must prepare to educate and encourage Missourians to “decline to sign” the pro-abortion initiative petition when their signature is solicited,” MRL said in a statement. “If the initiative petitions do not receive enough signatures, we can prevent this measure from going on the November 2024 ballot that would enshrine a “right” to abortion in our Missouri Constitution and would overturn virtually all of our pro-life laws.”
MRL has a one-page handout that citizens can print and share with others on the impact of the various petitions.
–Dwight Widaman -Metro Voice