Missouri appeals court rules against ballot summary language that described 'dangerous' abortions

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri appeals court ruled Tuesday against Republican-written summaries of abortion-rights ballot measures that described several proposed amendments as allowing “dangerous and unregulated abortions until live birth.”

A three-judge panel of the Western District Court of Appeals found the summaries written by Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who is running for governor in 2024, are politically partisan.

Ashcroft’s original description would ask voters whether they want to “allow for dangerous, unregulated, and unrestricted abortions, from conception to live birth, without requiring a medical license or potentially being subject to medical malpractice.”

If supporters gather enough voter signatures, the abortion-rights constitutional amendments would go before Missouri voters in 2024.

The judges largely upheld summaries that were rewritten by a lower court judge to be more impartial.

Ballot summaries are used on Missouri ballots to help voters understand sometimes lengthy and complex constitutional amendments and policy changes.

The summaries approved by the appeals court would tell voters the amendments would “establish a right to make decisions about reproductive health care, including abortion and contraceptives” and “remove Missouri’s ban on abortion.”

Ashcroft said he plans to appeal the ruling.

“We stand by our language and believe it fairly and accurately reflects the scope and magnitude of each petition,” Ashcroft said in a statement.

Abortion-rights proponents lauded the Tuesday ruling.

“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 ACLU of Missouri said in a statement. It called the decision "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.”

Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey's office is defending Ashcroft's summary language in court.

Missouri is among several states, including Ohio, where abortion opponents are fighting efforts to ensure or restore access to the procedure following the fall of Roe v. Wade last year.


Associated Press writer Heather Hollingsworth contributed to this report from Mission, Kansas.

Summer Ballentine, The Associated Press