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Will Missouri vote on abortion rights in 2024? As deadline looms, it's getting complicated

Kacen Bayless, The Kansas City Star on

Published in News & Features

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With the clock ticking to get a measure enshrining the right to an abortion on a statewide ballot in 2024, Missouri abortion rights supporters appear to be split on strategy and have not unified behind one version of the proposal.

The lack of a campaign, as well as a series of legal battles with anti-abortion Republican officials that kept the abortion rights petitions tied up in court for months, have cast some doubt on the ability for supporters to craft an expensive and time-consuming campaign to get a version of the measure on the 2024 ballot.

“That timeline is going to be really, really tough,” said Emily Wales, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which has not backed a version of the proposals. “Missourians will have access restored. I don’t know that it will be possible for them to vote on this in 2024.”

Failure to get a measure on the ballot would be a huge missed opportunity in a year in which abortion rights are expected to be a key issue. Missouri voters are expected to turn out in droves in 2024, with abortion rights also crucial in races across the board, including governor, U.S. Senate and president.

If a measure does reach the ballot, Missouri, the first state to ban abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, could become the first state to reverse a near-total ban on the procedure through a ballot initiative.

But one new complication for the abortion rights ballot push is the emergence of a Republican-led campaign that would legalize abortion up to 12 weeks and add exceptions for rape and incest.

 

Jamie Corley, a former Republican congressional staffer who is leading the effort, has pitched her proposal as a middle ground between the state’s near-total abortion ban and the more expansive abortion rights petitions.

Despite this pitch, some abortion rights groups, health care providers and Democratic lawmakers remain skeptical of Corley’s effort, arguing that her proposal would give lawmakers too much room to regulate reproductive health care.

Advocates have also criticized a requirement that women seeking an abortion following a rape report the assault to a hotline.

Mallory Schwarz, the executive director of Abortion Action Missouri, in a phone interview said Corley’s petitions were “misleading,” contending that they were written in a way that would not actually allow health care providers to begin providing abortions again.

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