Several pro-life organizations have formed a coalition to oppose a proposed ballot initiative that seeks to amend the state’s constitution to restore legal abortion.
Missouri Stands with Women filed paperwork with the Missouri Ethics Commission on Jan. 12. Deacon Sam Lee, a permanent deacon and longtime pro-life lobbyist with Campaign Life Missouri, is listed as the group’s president.
The Missouri Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s bishops, is among the organizations that have joined the coalition. Others include Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America and ThriVe Nation, a St. Louis-based pregnancy resource organization. Several groups have already donated to the campaign, including the Missouri Catholic Conference, the Missouri Senate Campaign Committee and the House Republican Campaign Committee.
Meanwhile, Missourians for Constitutional Freedom, a group of organizations in support of abortion access, announced its campaign on Jan. 18. Abortion Action Missouri, ACLU of Missouri and two Planned Parenthood chapters in Missouri are part of the coalition.
The group faces a May 5 deadline to collect enough signatures in support of the proposed amendment, which would allow abortions until fetal viability (typically around 22-24 weeks of pregnancy), with an exception for the “life and physical or mental health” of the mother. If the group collects signatures of at least 8% of legal voters in six of the state’s eight congressional districts by the deadline, the measure will be placed on the November 2024 ballot to be voted on by Missouri citizens.
The initiative petition process is being used “to reverse all the pro-life work our state has undertaken to protect the dignity of life, safety of women and parental rights,” Stephanie Bell, a spokeswoman for Missouri Stands with Women, said in a statement posted on the organization’s website. “We are united in our efforts to ensure these out-of-state extremists are not allowed to tear the fabric of our constitution by placing unregulated, taxpayer-funded abortions up to the moment of birth, effectively overriding all Missouri’s pro-life laws.”
Missouri Catholic Conference executive director Jamie Morris said the conference supports efforts to protect the safety of women and children. “We’re going to be heavily involved in anything that is about protecting our constitution from adding abortion rights,” he said. “The bishops have been engaged every step of the way with other pro-life groups, and we will continue to be working with our partners on this initiative.”
Morris encouraged people to pray, stay engaged, and, above all, not to sign a petition without first asking questions. “If you’re approached, don’t sign,” he said. “Ask questions — you can always go home and research. But be very cautious.”