Republicans push constitutional amendment outlawing abortion

BY MADELINE SHANNON, Missouri News Network
Posted 2/29/24

JEFFERSON CITY — A Republican legislator Thursday promoted his resolution that would make outlawing abortion in Missouri an enshrined part of the state’s constitution.

In a press …

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Republicans push constitutional amendment outlawing abortion


JEFFERSON CITY — A Republican legislator Thursday promoted his resolution that would make outlawing abortion in Missouri an enshrined part of the state’s constitution.

In a press conference Thursday, Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, said his resolution was in response to an initiative petition effort seeking to enshrine the right to abortion in Missouri’s highest document.

“If we’re going to put something on the ballot, we need to provide voters with an option that protects the child that’s in the womb and also protects mothers if their life is under threat,” Koenig said.

“I think if we’re going to put something through the initiative petition process, they’re going to try to create a right to abortion, we should have an alternative for voters to vote on something else,” he said.

The legislature would have to approve Koenig’s resolution for it to get on the ballot. Those circulating an initiative petition to restore abortion rights must meet a May 5 deadline to submit an estimated 171,000 signatures needed to place it on the ballot.

Koenig’s resolution allows abortion in the cases of a medical emergency but prevents the legislature from adding more exceptions later, although it does allow an amendment to be voted on by the voters. It also allows an income tax credit for contributions to organizations like nonprofit pregnancy resource centers as long as they don’t perform or refer out for abortions.

“It does present a choice to voters if both measures are on the ballot in November,” said Samuel Lee, director of Campaign Life Missouri, which opposes abortions. “The voters will get to decide what laws they want to have in their constitution.”

While others who testified in the Senate Fiscal Oversight Committee hearing Thursday also supported abortion bans in Missouri, not everyone agreed on how that should be enacted.

“We do support the language that is in the bill. Obviously we do not support prosecution of women, we support the great work that our pregnancy resource centers do, but we disagree with the process,” said Susan Klein, the executive director of Missouri Right to Life. “We don’t believe that putting this on the ballot is where this needs to go.”

An official with Missourians for Constitutional Freedom, the organization that launched an initiative petition this year to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would guarantee the right to an abortion in Missouri, said earlier this month the initiative petition was “growing momentum.”

The effort to change Missouri’s constitution to once again make abortion legal in the state spurred a slew of legislation this year that sought to limit the ability to make changes to the state’s constitution via the initiative petition process.

Under Senate Joint Resolution 74, which Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman introduced this year, voters can still pass a constitutional amendment, but only with a majority of votes statewide and by a majority of voters in more than half of the congressional districts in the state.

Critics of the resolution fear that if it takes effect, as few as one in five voters in Missouri could vote against a constitutional amendment and end the principle of majority rule in the state.

SJR 74 passed the Senate on Feb. 22 and made its way to the House of Representatives, a crucial step in the process before it is enacted.