UNITED STATES NEWS

Missouri Supreme Court weighs fate of amendment to restore abortion rights

Jul 18, 2023, 3:21 PM

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Whether Missouri voters get a chance weigh in on legalizing abortion is now up to state Supreme Court judges, who on Tuesday heard arguments in a case about Republican infighting that has stalled the amendment’s progress.

Judges did not indicate when they might rule on the case, which centers around a proposed amendment to enshrine in the constitution the individual right to make decisions about abortion, childbirth and birth control. Abortion-rights supporters proposed it after the state banned almost all abortions last summer.

The amendment hit a snag in April, when Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey refused to sign off on Republican Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick’s cost estimate.

Without Bailey’s approval, abortion-rights supporters have not been able to start work getting the signatures needed to put the measure before voters in 2024.

They sued, and a circuit court judge last month ordered Bailey to approve the cost estimate. He has not, instead appealing to the Supreme Court to validate him.

ACLU attorney Tony Rothert on Tuesday asked judges to force Bailey to act so he no longer can singlehandedly “hold hostage and potentially even kill an initiative.”

“The attorney general’s actions here are the most serious threat to direct democracy that has ever happened in Missouri,” Rothert said.

Assistant Attorney General Jason Lewis told Supreme Court judges Tuesday that Fitzpatrick’s office used “nonsensical methodologies” to calculate the cost estimate of at least $51,000 annually in reduced local tax revenues.

Lewis argued the price tag could be up to $51 billion each year because of reduced tax revenue from fewer births and the complete loss of federal Medicaid funding. That would equate to about one-sixth of the state’s approximately $300 billion annual GDP.

“The auditor could have and should have done more,” Lewis said.

Auditor’s Office attorney Robert Tillman said the Attorney General’s Office engaged in “legal gymnastics” to defend the stonewalling.

“The attorney general would have you believe that facts and figures are argumentative and prejudicial,” Tillman said. “But numbers are numbers.”

___

For more AP coverage of the abortion issue: https://apnews.com/hub/abortion

United States News

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Missouri Supreme Court weighs fate of amendment to restore abortion rights