Jefferson City, Mo. – Following the September 11 bench trial in Cole County Circuit Court, Judge John E. Beetem ruled that Secretary of State John Jay Ashcroft failed to carry out the duties of his office to craft fair and impartial ballots summary statements for Dr. Anna Fitz-James's reproductive freedom initiatives. The judge’s order includes a new summary statement for each of the six that were challenged.
In the order, Judge Beetem wrote, “The Court finds that certain phrases included in the Secretary’s summary statement are problematic in that they are either argumentative or do not fairly describe the purposes or probably effect of the initiative.”
“The Court saw Ashcroft’s proposed summary statements for what they were - the language of a biased politician seeking the support of special interest groups,” said Anthony Rothert, Director of Integrated Advocacy at the ACLU of Missouri. “The new summaries go a long way toward fairly describing the right to make reproductive health care decisions without government interference. Missourians believe in limited government and should have the chance to vote for reproductive rights.”
Additionally, the court heard an argument from an anti-abortion activist joined by two General Assembly members challenging the State Auditor’s fiscal note. Making for an odd couple, the Missouri ACLU joined the State Auditor to defend against the challenge. Judge Beetem denied the challenge to the fiscal note summary. The court found that the Auditor’s estimated cost of $51,000 is accurate. The judge rejected arguments that passing the measure would result in the loss of federal Medicaid funding or the other costs opponents argued would be incurred.
“These two elected officials joined an anti-abortion special interest group to subvert democracy by recycling the failed arguments of the Attorney General to artificially inflate the fiscal note.” said Tori Schafer, Deputy Director for Policy and Campaigns.
In March, retired pediatrician Dr. Anna Fitz-James filed 11 reproductive freedom initiative petitions to establish the right to make decisions about health care including prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, birth control, abortion care, miscarriage care, and respectful birthing conditions. Due to the failure of the Attorney General to approve the fiscal note summary on a timely basis, the challenge targeted six summary statements to expedite the process.
Read the Court’s order.