Mayor Lucas joins others attempting to stop Missouri AG from blocking statewide abortion vote

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas filed a brief today condemning Missouri Attorney General Andrew...
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas filed a brief today condemning Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey's blockage of a ballot initiative that would allow Missourians to repeal or keep in place a near-total abortion ban.(Andrew Harnik | AP)
Published: Jul. 17, 2023 at 4:42 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Last year, Kansans overwhelmingly voted to protect abortion rights in the state primary after Roe v. Wade was overturned despite being a historically red state. Around the same time, Missouri’s trigger laws, which put into place a near-total abortion ban, were enacted – without input from citizens.

In response to supporters filing a number of ballot initiatives aimed at giving Missourians a choice to keep or repeal the ban, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey encouraged the state auditor evaluating the amendment, Scott Fitzpatrick, to falsely inflate the cost of the initiative. The exaggeration of the cost caused a standstill which prevented supporters from gathering the number of petition signatures needed for abortion to make it onto the 2024 ballot.

Last month, a judge ruled the attorney had no right to inflate the cost of the ballot measure, which had indicated the state would lose around $12.5 billion in Medicaid. The figure, heavily pushed by anti-abortion lobbyists, was found to be inaccurate, court records show.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, along with Public Rights Project, a non-profit which advocates for reproductive health care, has joined a number of other pro-abortion rights supporters in condemning Bailey’s blockage of an abortion ballot initiative.

The 17-page brief argues that Bailey, by “indefinitely delaying” the production of a ballot title and unlawfully compressing the time for supporters to collect signatures, is interfering with the democratic process.

Lucas, an outspoken advocate for access to abortion, emphasized that reproductive decisions should not be made by “unelected bureaucrats” such as Bailey, encouraging the attorney general to “allow democracy in our state to work.”

“I am proud to join the Public Rights Project in trusting the people of Missouri with fair ballot language,” Lucas said in a statement. “The Attorney General should do the same and let the people have a fair vote on the important issue of women’s personal control over their bodies and their healthcare.”

The brief, filed in the Missouri Supreme Court, additionally argues that Bailey has nothing more to do except review the ballot initiatives fiscal note. Instead, he delayed the process based on “prejudiced statistical analysis” of the numbers, setting a potentially dangerous precedent in a biased and unlawful power grab, the brief reads.

“The Attorney General’s disregard for his lawful duties is depriving Missouri’s citizens of a ‘constitutional right integral to Missouri’s democratic system of government,’” it reads.

Ultimately, Lucas and his nonprofit partner aim to require the attorney general to quickly approve the accurate fiscal note so supporters of the ballot initiative can begin collecting signatures.

A number of regulatory hurdles and politically motivated delays prevented pro-abortion rights advocates from completing the necessary steps to get the initiative on the ballot, delaying the initiative further.

How long has an abortion ballot initiative been on the table?

In 2019, Missouri enacted an 8-week abortion ban. Under the state constitution, a referendum could be held on a new law so long as abortion-rights activists could gather enough signatures by a summer deadline.

This means laws like the 8-week abortion could be put to a vote if activist groups gather enough signatures before the deadline. Then, Missourians could decide through a ballot measure whether to keep or overturn the law.

However, advocates were not able to meet the late-summer signature deadlines for a number of reasons: Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft refused to approve the language of the initiative until a court ordered him to, and he finished approving the measure when supporters had just two weeks left to collect thousands upon thousands of signatures.

The paperwork trail is part of the reason why abortion-rights activists are still struggling to put the initiative on the ballot. Bailey’s refusal to approve the fiscal note and subsequent cost inflation of the measure has left the initiative unable to move forward, meaning that supporters cannot yet begin collecting the amount of signatures required to put abortion to a statewide vote.

Missourians used ballot initiatives in 2020 to expand Medicaid statewide and in 2018 to increase the minimum wage.

Missouri’s 2023 legislative session saw a number of attempts by primarily Republican lawmakers to restrict ballot initiatives, making it harder to pass constitutional amendments.