Back to a courtroom today for proposed initiatives that are designed to make abortion legal again in Missouri.

The Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District has heard arguments today about Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s appeal to challenge a lower court’s rewriting of ballot language for six proposed abortion initiatives. Ashcroft, a Republican who is running for governor, 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.”

Representing Ashcroft, Missouri Solicitor General Joshua Divine, said a Cole County Court “strayed far from its legitimate role” by rewriting what the initiatives would do.

“Trial courts can only modify language,” he said. “They cannot rewrite it entirely. Here the trial court violated all of these rules when instead of taking a scalpel, it took a butcher’s knife to the language.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri represents Dr. Anna Fitz-James, who is leading the charge to put the initiatives on the election ballot. Anthony Rothert, with the ACLU, said the secretary chose to “push personal and political policy preferences” over the secretary’s duty to make a “fair summary.”

“His summaries are just a collection of bias, prejudice, deception and favoritism, and disfavor – exactly what’s supposed to be absent from a summary statement,” said Rothert.

The same court heard an appeal today about Missouri State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick’s estimated cost of such initiatives. According to Fitzpatrick, the impact on state agencies is unknown. He said local governments estimate a possible cost of at least $51,000 annually in reduced revenues.

State Rep. Hannah Kelly, R-Mountain Grove, state Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, and New Bloomfield resident Kathy Forck say Fitzpatrick, a fellow Republican, is underestimating the potential cost. They say the projection should be based on every Missouri county – not just Greene County.

The state court has not ruled yet on the appeals.

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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