Friday, May 03, 2024

More than 380,000 Missourians sign initiative petition to put abortion on the ballot

By Anna Spoerre

A campaign to enshrine abortion rights in Missouri’s constitution said Friday that it collected more than 380,000 signatures in just three months, more than twice the likely total needed to qualify for this year’s statewide ballot.

(Photo- Attendees cheer during a Missourians for Constitutional Freedom rally after the campaign turned in more than 380,000 signatures for its initiative petition to enshrine abortion rights in Missouri’s constitution Friday morning -Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent).

The coalition, called Missourians for Constitutional Freedom, is hoping to put on the November ballot a measure that would legalize abortion up to the point of fetal viability. Since June 2022, nearly every abortion has been illegal in the state with the exception of medical emergencies.


In order to put a citizen-led constitutional amendment before voters, the campaign had to collect signatures from 8% of voters in six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts. That total equates to more than 171,000 signatures.

The campaign on Friday morning announced they officially turned in 380,159 signatures to the Missouri Secretary of State’s office. A breakdown of how many signatures came from each district, which will ultimately determine if they met the threshold needed to qualify, was not provided. But the coalition said they collected signatures from each of Missouri’s counties and congressional districts.

“Hundreds of thousands of Missourians are now having conversations about abortion and reproductive freedom; some are sharing their own abortion stories for the very first time; and all are ready to do whatever it takes to win at the ballot box this year,” Mallory Schwarz, executive director of Abortion Action Missouri and spokesperson for Missourians for Constitutional Freedom, said in a statement. “Together, we are going to end Missouri’s abortion ban.”

The effort kicked off 90 days ago, requiring a massive undertaking to reach the May 5 signature deadline. The coalition is led by Abortion Action Missouri, the ACLU of Missouri and Planned Parenthood affiliates in Kansas City and St. Louis.

Like abortion campaigns that have played out in other states, Missouri’s coalition has been able to raise more than $5 million dollars in donations, including from the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a liberal dark money organization based in Washington, D.C., that gave $1 million. Separately, more than 3,200 individual Missourians contributed $1.8 million in the first three months of the year, according to a campaign finance report published last month.

This year, more than 1,800 volunteers from around Missouri helped collect signatures, according to a news release from the coalition. In the three weekends leading up to the deadline, the coalition said volunteers collected 18,000 signatures and knocked on 40,000 doors.

Dr. Iman Alsaden, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood Great Plains and advisor to Missourians for Constitutional Freedom, said they became an abortion provider in part to sit with patients and help counter any narrative that they are bad people for having an abortion. But the overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022 made the job much more difficult.

“Medical decision-making is clouded by unclear and harsh laws that make providers feel scared to do the right thing,” Alsaden said.

The initial attempt to place abortion on the ballot began in March 2023. Legal fights over the ballot language and internal disagreements on whether to include a viability ban stalled signature gathering attempts until January. Viability is often considered to be around 24 weeks of pregnancy.

The initiative petition language the coalition settled on would allow the legislature to “regulate the provision of abortion after fetal viability provided that under no circumstance shall the government deny, interfere with, delay or otherwise restrict an abortion that in the good faith judgment of a treating health care professional is needed to protect the life or physical or mental health of the pregnant person.”

Also among those gathered in front of Missouri’s Capitol to celebrate Friday was Sam Hawickhorst, who in 2015, at 22 years old, had an abortion in Missouri.

“It felt like everyone I reached out to for support made my pregnancy about themselves while I, the pregnant person, was an afterthought,” she told a crowd of about 200 people. “I felt like a burden. But despite these initial hurdles, I knew I had to look out for myself because no one else was.”

After reaching out to a friend who had recently had an abortion, Hawickhorst went to Planned Parenthood where she was prescribed abortion pills. During the multiple appointments and the transvaginal exam then required by state law, Hawickhorst said she felt as if the government was “ensuring cruelty every step of the way” in order for her to have an abortion.

“Abortion is healthcare. Abortion is normal. And those who have had and will have abortions deserve dignity and respect,” she said. “This amendment, this movement, is about who makes personal decisions for yourself and your family.”

Around the same time the abortion campaign was announced, a separate coalition organized to oppose them. That group, called Missouri Stands with Women, spent the past few months leading a “decline to sign” campaign, urging people not to sign the initiative petition. So far, they’ve been vastly out-fundraised by Missourians for Constitutional Freedom.

“Out-of-state Big Abortion supporters think the fight is over,” Stephanie Bell, with Missouri Stands With Women, said in a statement Friday. “They could not be more wrong when it comes to standing up for life in Missouri.”

The abortion petition is among five citizen-led ballot measure campaigns expected to turn truckloads of signatures over to the Secretary of State’s office before 5 p.m. Sunday.

On Thursday, Winning for Missouri Education, which is a coalition of Missouri professional sports franchises, submitted more than 340,000 signatures in the hopes of putting the legalization of sports gambling on the ballot.

A day earlier, more than 210,000 signatures were delivered for a campaign hoping to ask Missouri voters to mandate paid sick leave and raise the state’s minimum wage to $13.75 beginning in January 2025 and $15 in 2026.

JoDonn Chaney, a spokesman for the Secretary of State, said it is unlikely signature verification will be finalized in time for any of the ballot measures to land on the August primary.

The Independent’s Annelise Hanshaw contributed.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

You can change the laws of the land to support your behavior, but it is the Word of God that will stand. The Word of God Never Changes. His promises remain true.

Anonymous said...

Your "word of god" was written by bronze age dudes with no assistance from the supernatural.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

@6:43 Where in the bible does it say abortion is a sin?

While we're at it, you'll have to provide the same evidence for all religions, since yours isn't the only one.

Anonymous said...

The protection of the right to life, liberty, and freedom is found in the Preamble and in the 14th Amendment.