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Missouri Appeals Court rejects Ashcroft’s plea on ballot language on abortion question



The Missouri Western District Appeals Court sided with a recent circuit judge’s decision to reword a ballot summary about a petition that could increase abortion access in the state.

Last month, Cole County Judge Jon Beteem rewrote the ballot summary language. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and Attorney General Andrew Bailey sought the Appeals Court to overrule that judge's decision to rewrite the ballot language.

The initiative petition aims to codify abortion rights in the Missouri Constitution. There are 11 total rights it outlines, including access to abortion, birth control and miscarriage management. The petition also outlines parameters for each of those rights. Several versions of the petition are filed and available for viewing on the Secretary of State's website.

“In certifying alternative language to the Secretary of State, we find that the summary statements drafted by the circuit court are sufficient and fair except as discussed,” the court’s opinion states.

The ACLU of Missouri issued a statement showing support for the court’s decision.

 “Today, the courts upheld Missourians’ constitutional right to direct democracy over the self-serving attacks of politicians desperately seeking to climb the political ladder. The decision from Missouri Court of Appeals is a complete rebuke of the combined efforts from the Attorney General and Secretary of State to interfere and deny Missourian’s their right to initiative process, the statement reads

Ashcroft issued a statement on Tuesday indicating that he plans to appeal the decision.

“Once again Missouri courts refused to allow the truth to be known. The Western District essentially approved the language that was entirely rewritten by Judge Beetem. Not only is the language misleading but it is categorically false,” Ashcroft said in the statement. “The circuit court’s opinion admits the real issue is about abortion.  The Western District today continued to gloss over the issue in its affirmation. We stand by our language and believe it fairly and accurately reflects the scope and magnitude of each petition.”

The court’s opinion referred to Ashcroft’s original ballot language as “partisan.”

“After removal of the inaccurate and partisan language of the Secretary’s summary statements, the circuit court was left with largely unworkable summary statements,” the opinion reads. “The circuit court was authorized to write alternative language to fulfill its responsibility that a fair and sufficient summary statement be certified. This result is clearly contemplated by the statute in the event that the Secretary fails to provide a workable framework for a summary statement with fair and sufficient language. Although the circuit court erred in some limited respects in its revisions of the summary statements (as discussed in points one and four above), it did not exceed its authority in drafting new summary statements.”

Several alternative summary statements were approved by the court.

Check back for updates to this developing story.

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Ryan Shiner


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