The Missouri Western District Court of Appeals upheld a decision on Tuesday that declared Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft used “argumentative” and “partisan” language in a ballot description of a proposed abortion amendment, court documents showed.
A Missouri judge determined in September that Ashcroft’s use of phrases such as “right to life,” “unborn child” and “dangerous, unregulated, and unrestricted abortions” were “problematic,” and rewrote the secretary’s summary to include approved language. The Court of Appeals agreed that Ashcroft tried to “mislead” voters with “insufficient and unfair” language, but said the rewritten ballot summaries must specifically mention abortion to accurately describe the proposed amendment, according to court documents.
“The circuit court did not err in determining that the Secretary’s language in this bullet point is not fair and sufficient,” the court wrote in its opinion. “First, ‘right to life’ is a partisan political phrase in the same manner that ‘right to choose’ is a partisan political phrase … The use of the term ‘right to life’ is simply not an impartial term.”
The people of Missouri must have the truth on any ballot summary. The ACLU and Planned Parenthood cannot lie about what this referendum does! https://t.co/NeooSgKAaL
— Jay Ashcroft (@JayAshcroftMO) October 31, 2023
Ashcroft plans to appeal the decision and intends to continue advocating for his original summary language, according to a press release from his office. The secretary claimed that the court’s ruling “continued to gloss over the issue” of abortion.
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“Once again Missouri courts refused to allow the truth to be known,” Ashcroft said in the press release. “The Western District essentially approved the language that was entirely rewritten by Judge Beetem. Not only is the language misleading but it is categorically false.”
The proposed amendment would prevent Missouri from banning abortion before an unborn child reached 24 weeks and would enshrine “a person’s fundamental right to reproductive freedom” in the state’s constitution, according to the ruling. Once the wording becomes official, supporters will need to collect 170,000 signatures in at least six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts to put the measure up for voting, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Ashcroft’s office declined to comment further on the matter.
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