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Anti-abortion advocates push for initiative petition reform


Anti-abortion advocates are pushing for lawmakers to raise the threshold to amend the Missouri constitution.

An "Abolition of Abortion" rally was held Wednesday afternoon in the Capitol Rotunda. The group is advocating for the passage of initiative petition reform resolutions.

"Significant efforts are underway to either end abortion or enshrine it into our constitution as a 'right'. It is imperative that you know what is going on with initiative potions, SB 775 and SJR 74," the group's website reads.

Wes Scroggins, executive director of Abolition of Abortion in Missouri, said he believes some petitions currently circulating are misleading, especially one on reproductive rights that could restore abortion access in the state.

"I personally believe that it needs to be more difficult to to change our state constitution, which is the supreme law of our land and  the state," Scroggins said. "And we that needs to be harder to change than just a simple majority."

Bills that aim to make it harder for Missourians to amend the constitution are advancing in both the Missouri House of Representatives and the Missouri Senate. Tuesday, the House perfected House Bill 1749, which "Modifies provisions for initiative petitions and referendums," after adding several amendments. This needs one more vote before it can be referred to the Senate.

After another overnight filibuster, the Senate also perfected Senate Joint Resolution 74, which "Modifies provisions relating to constitutional amendments," after removing a section nicknamed "ballot candy." This bill has now been referred to another committee hearing set for Thursday.

SJR 74, introduced by Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman (R-Jefferson County), would ask Missouri voters to decide whether to change some election rules, including increasing the threshold for initiative petitions to pass. Those petitions go on a ballot for a statewide vote. Under Missouri law, they can pass with a simple majority of votes, but some Republicans want to raise that threshold.

Coleman's resolution was called "ballot candy" by Democratic lawmakers, saying it aims to trick voters because of the part asking whether foreign citizens should be banned from voting in U.S. elections, which is already illegal. However, after nearly 20 hours of Democrats filibustering Monday into Tuesday, an amendment to remove that section was introduced and passed.

"Republicans have been trying to push these bills that have intentionally confusing language or intentionally unnecessary language," said Rep. Eric Woods (D- Kansas City).

Republicans have prioritized initiative petition reform for the past few years but failed to get a bill across the finish line each time. Many Republicans are worried that an initiative petition currently gathering signatures on reproductive rights would pass and allow abortions in Missouri once more if the process is not changed.

Woods said Republicans are working harder on initiative petition reform this year because of the progress the reproductive rights petition is making.

"They have been pulling out all of the stops to try and make it more difficult to pass initiatives because they know that when the people get a chance to vote to restore abortion rights and overturn Missouri's abortion ban, which is probably one of the strictest in the country, that the people are going to say, 'yes,'" Woods said.

Article Topic Follows: Missouri Politics

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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.


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