A big step back for Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft over abortion ballot language.

Earlier today, Cole County Judge Jon Beetem struck down language in six proposed ballot initiatives that would make most abortions legal again in Missouri. Ashcroft’s office had included 13 phrases that Judge Beetem found to be “problematic” and written in a way to influence voters to vote “no.” Those 13 phrases:

  • “dangerous, unregulated, and unrestricted abortions,”
  • “from conception to live birth”
  • “without requiring a medical license”
  • “without…potentially being subject to medical malpractice”
  • “nullifying longstanding Missouri law”
  • “the right to life”
  • “partial-birth abortion”
  • “including a minor”
  • “end the life”
  • “unborn child”
  • “at any time”
  • “potentially including tax-payer funding”
  • “prohibit any municipality, city, town, village, district, authority, public subdivision, or public corporation having the power to tax or regulate or the state of Missouri from regulating abortion procedures”

Judge Beetem rewrote the six ballot questions without the phrases.

Ashcroft, who is also seeking the Republican nomination for Missouri governor, said his office will appeal the judge’s ruling.

“We will not stand idly by while the courts hide the effects of this amendment and mislead the people as to what they may very well be voting on next year,” said Ashcroft. “While the court may pretend this does not allow ‘dangerous, unregulated, unrestricted’ abortions, it is clear that under this initiative petition, individuals like Kermit Gosnell, who was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for killing a mother and 3 children, would be free from prosecution. Additionally, this court’s language misleads the people into believing that initiative petitions 2024-085 and 087 would amend the constitution to ‘declare government funding of abortion is not required’ which is categorically false.”

In a separate ruling, Beetem also upheld the cost estimates of the abortion ballot questions provided by State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick, which were being challenged by two state lawmakers — Rep. Hannah Kelly, R-Mountain Grove, and Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold — and pro-life advocate Kathy Forck.

They contended that the true cost of legalizing abortion would run north of $12 billion a year, the same argument put forth by Attorney General Andrew Bailey. But Fitzpatrick has said repeatedly that the only cost would be about $51,000 a year to local governments with no known costs to state government. Beetem wrote that the fiscal note summaries were “fair and sufficient” and “accurately represents the potential costs of each measure.”

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