A Cole County judge on Monday rewrote the ballot summaries for six initiative petitions seeking to enshrine abortion rights in the Missouri Constitution. Circuit Judge Jon Beetem ruled that certain phrases included in the Secretary of State’s summary statements were “problematic” because they were “either argumentative or do not fairly describe the purposes or probably effect of the initiative,” including:
“without requiring a medical license”
“the right to life”
“including a minor”
“end the life”
“at any time
Judge Beetem also ruled that while the proposals would immediately impact abortion, the summaries should have also included references to “reproductive health care beyond abortion”. As a result, Beetem rewrote the six summary statements as had been requested by the plaintiff in the case.
The Secretary of State’s office said it was appealing the 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”, read the statement. A hearing date for the appeal has already been set for October 30.
Judge Beetem on Monday also ruled against plaintiffs who had challenged the fiscal note summary of the initiatives. In the suit by Rep. Hannah Kelly, R-Mountain Grove, Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, and Kathy Forck, a pro-life advocate from New Bloomfield, the challengers argued that the state could lose federal Medicaid funding and future tax revenue if the initiatives passed. The attorney for the plaintiffs has also filed an appeal in that case.
The political action committee that filed the initiative petitions, Missourians for Constitutional Freedom, has not chosen which initiative(s) to circulate for signatures while the litigation progresses. The group must collect more than 170,000 signatures by early May to be on the 2024 ballot.