A pursuit to restore abortion rights in Missouri has made its way to the state Supreme Court. The high court is considering a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri that is designed to require the state to finish its work on the potential 2024 ballot measure.

The 11 proposed constitutional amendments filed would declare that the “government shall not infringe upon a person’s fundamental right to reproductive freedom”, including prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, birth control, abortion care, miscarriage care and “respectful birthing conditions”.

Missouri State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick and Attorney General Andrew Bailey, both Republicans, are at odds over the cost estimate of the proposal by as much as $12.5 billion. The clash is stalling the potential collection of petition signatures for the proposal.

During Tuesday’s Supreme Court hearing, Jason Lewis, with the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, said his office’s cost projection is accurate and he wants the state auditor’s estimate to match it.

“The State Auditor’s submissions are argumentative and prejudicial by hiding an elephant in a mousehole, by not disclosing a potential impact of 12 and a half billion dollars, that is facially argumentative and facially prejudicial and the Attorney General’s position here is narrow and gives effect to the plain meaning of the statute,” he said.

Lewis said the State Auditor’s Office does not take into account certain costs.

“It picks winners and losers by including specific numerical estimates for some classification of submitters, but not all classifications of submitters,” said Lewis. “It represents just one county’s costs as a representative of 115 different county level entities.”

Anthony Rothert, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, called the attorney general’s move “legal gymnastics”.

“This really is the attorney general’s trick here of preventing voters from considering an initiative that he opposes,” said Rothert. “The AG (attorney general) can advance this interpretation of the statute only by taking it out of context and ignoring that it allows him to hold hostage and potentially even kill an initiative.”

Rothert said Bailey’s move is “sabotage by design.”

“The Attorney General’s actions here represent the most serious threat to direct democracy that has ever happened in Missouri,” said Rothert. “It’s not an understatement to say that he’s trying to carry out a coup against the people of Missouri – taking away their authority to change the law by initiative by using the statutes that are there to stall, stall, and stall.”

The Supreme Court could rule at any time.

The next legal fight could be over the summary language explaining the abortion proposal to voters and the amount of time it takes the Secretary of State’s office to complete this task. If these become problems for anti-abortion advocates, the matter could end up in court – further derailing the collection of signatures.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, a Republican, is in charge of writing the ballot summary.

Ashcroft announced Monday that the anti-abortion advocacy group, Missouri Right To Life, has endorsed him in the 2024 governor’s race.

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