Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey has lost his court battle to drive up the cost of a potential abortion rights ballot measure.
In a unanimous decision, the Missouri Supreme Court has upheld today a lower court’s ruling that Bailey is not justified in his refusal to approve the state auditor’s cost estimate of the possible 2024 proposal. State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick and Bailey, both Republicans, were far apart on the cost projection – by as much as $12.5 billion.
The 11 pro-choice proposals 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”.
The Missouri Supreme Court made a quick decision. It held a court hearing Tuesday afternoon on the lawsuit.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri sued to require Bailey to approve fellow Republican State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick’s cost projection because the standoff has derailed the potential gathering of petition signatures.
Anthony Rothert, with the ACLU, said Bailey’s move is unprecedented.
“Attorneys general and auditors, both parties of different parties, have worked together to create fiscal note summaries,” he said. “Sometimes there’s a court challenge after certification and that works its way through the courts but never has there been the stall where someone has had to wait this long.”
The summary for the proposed ballot measure was supposed to be completed by May 1.
Rothert said the court ruling means the attorney general has 24 hours to approve Fitzpatrick’s cost projection.
“That would give the Secretary of State three business days after that to certify a ballot title. Once a ballot title is certified, that’s when signatures can be collected, litigation over ballot summaries can begin, or both,” said Rothert.
The ACLU is also suing Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft over the way the ballot measure would be explained to voters.
“Through public records requests, we have seen the language that the Secretary of State has concocted for these measures and it’s ridiculous, so it will be challenged,” said Rothert.
Anna Fitz-James is organizing the effort to put the question on the 2024 ballot. Validated signatures from 8% of voters in six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts is required to ask voters whether to restore the right to abortion.
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