A lawsuit is back in court over 11 proposed initiatives that are designed to make many abortions legal again in Missouri.

The court fight is about whether Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s wording to describe the abortion-related proposals to voters is fair and whether State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick’s estimated cost of the petitions is accurate. The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri filed the lawsuit, saying Ashcroft’s wording is not fair.

“The secretary acted as if he were playing the political spin edition of mad libs,” the ACLU’s Tony Rothert said during Monday’s court arguments. “Ashcroft abandoned any pretext of doing his job impartially.”

Ashcroft, a Republican who is running for governor, has submitted language that would ask voters, among other things, whether to:

•allow for “dangerous, unregulated, and unrestricted abortions, from conception to live birth, without requiring a medical license or potentially being subject to medical malpractice;”

•nullify “longstanding Missouri law protecting the right to life, including but not limited to partial-birth abortion;”

•allow for laws to be enacted regulating abortion procedures “after 24 weeks, while guaranteeing the right of any woman, including a minor, to end the life of their unborn child at any time; and”

• “require the government not to discriminate against persons providing or obtaining an abortion, potentially including tax-payer funding.”

Assistant Attorney General Jason Lewis represented Ashcroft.

“The secretary’s summaries actually do summarize and convey to voters the massive loopholes in the initiative petitions that would grant access to effectively unregulated and unrestricted abortions in Missouri,” said Lewis. “And each of the measures has critical provisions that will render any lawmaking impractical if these initiatives were to become law.”

The other argument Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetum will decide is whether State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick’s cost estimate of the initiatives is accurate. According to Fitzpatrick, the impact on state agencies is unknown. He said local governments estimated a possible cost of at least $51,000 in reduced revenues. State Rep. Hannah Kelly, R-Mountain Grove, state Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, and New Bloomfield resident Kathy Forck say the cost projection should be based on every Missouri county – not just Greene County.

Whatever decisions that Beetum make are expected to be appealed.

In order to get on the 2024 election ballot, more than 170,000 valid signatures from registered voters would be required by next May.

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