Kansas City Star. June 29, 2022.
Editorial: A Missouri vote on abortion? Conservatives are terrified of what the voters would say
In May, weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court discarded the law to return abortion policy to the states, Missouri lawmakers talked about putting an abortion ban in the state constitution.
“Let the voters decide whether they want to make it clear that there is no right to abortion in the Missouri Constitution,” said state Sen. Bob Onder, a Republican.
Abortion opponents in Missouri were obviously worried about the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling that the right to an abortion is “fundamental” in the state. The judges said abortion could be regulated, but only after meeting a “strict scrutiny” standard to protect patients.
More recently, over the past few days, judges in other states have derailed some so-called “trigger laws” that mirror Missouri’s anti-abortion statute. State courts are moving closer to intervention on this issue, and they are not bound by the Supreme Court’s views.
In this environment, we would expect an even louder clamor from anti-liberty forces to put abortion bans on the ballot, and potentially in the Missouri Constitution. Yet those voices have grown quiet over the past few days.
Perhaps we can guess why. Perhaps Missouri’s conservative leadership realizes that if their absolute ban on abortion in all cases is ever tested at the ballot box, it would lose.
A statewide referendum on abortion — or any individual right — is, in most cases, ill-advised. Individual rights are inalienable: They can’t be taken away by the government, either in the legislature or at the polls (or at the courts, for that matter).
In this case, though, a statewide vote on abortion would be valuable and important. In fact, we think state lawmakers (or voters, through the petition process) should offer two abortion amendments: one allowing the prohibition of all abortions in Missouri, the other claiming abortion access is a fundamental right.
Under state law, the amendment with the most yes votes would win. We’re pretty sure which would prevail.
Missouri’s voters routinely reject the hyper-conservatism in Jefferson City. Medicaid was expanded, medical marijuana legalized, labor rights were endorsed and the minimum wage was raised — all at the ballot box.
And we know why. Missouri voters are sensible, moderate and focused. They know life choices can be complicated. They know the government should provide assistance when needed, but should also step aside before it intrudes on deeply personal decisions.
That’s why Missouri’s conservatives are terrified of a constitutional referendum on abortion. They know voters want flexibility and fairness from their government. Conservatives aren’t interested in any of that.
Oh, and they don’t think voters should decide the laws anyway.
Last session, the General Assembly considered but did not pass a resolution calling for an anti-abortion amendment to the state constitution. A statewide debate on this issue is now critical, after illogic at the U.S. Supreme Court prevailed.
In August, Kansas voters will get to decide this question. Missourians deserve the same chance. Put abortion rights on the ballot, legislators. Let’s see what Missourians think.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch. July 3, 2022.
Editorial: Missouri legislation previewed how far post-Roe radicals may be ready to go
One of the more shameful moments in congressional history was the passage in 1850 of the Fugitive Slave Act. It required that even slavery-free Northern states must abet that evil institution by returning enslaved people who’d escaped from the South and believed they had attained freedom. With the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, America may again see attempts by states that restrict the freedom of some of their citizens to extend those restrictions into other states. Missouri lawmakers, for example, seriously considered a measure this year that would have presumed to punish out-of-state abortion providers if they serve Missouri women.
Until June 24, that sounded like the kind of clearly unconstitutional scheme that would never survive a court challenge. But now that the Supreme Court’s conservative majority has signaled its willingness to rubber-stamp the most extreme items on the Republican agenda, Missouri will almost certainly revisit this dystopian vision, as will other red states.
The court’s decision overturning Roe ostensibly puts decisions regarding abortion rights into the hands of each state legislature. But anyone who thinks the newly invigorated anti-choice movement will be content to stop there hasn’t been paying attention. Missouri’s flirtation last session with what should be called the Fugitive Woman Act is instructive regarding the off-the-charts radicalism of the most extreme anti-abortion-rights legislators today.
Its creator, state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, is an attorney who presumably understands the core constitutional rights of interstate travel, interstate commerce and free speech. Yet she pursued legislation that would discard all three in service to the overriding goal of ensuring that Missouri’s restrictions on women’s biological autonomy follow them even if they leave Missouri. In addition to offering civil judgments to random Missourians who could sue out-of-state doctors for aiding Missouri women fleeing the state’s abortion restrictions, Coleman sought to criminalize even giving women “instructions over the telephone, the internet or any other medium of communication” regarding abortion services.
The measure wasn’t approved, but Roe’s demise will give it new momentum. Coleman already is telling interviewers the next big battle is over what she terms “abortion tourism” — as if rape victims desperately seeking out-of-state services to escape Missouri’s new law exacerbating their trauma are just taking a carefree road trip.
Many activists who worked for years to wrench away women’s constitutional right to control their own bodies in red-state America aren’t going to respect other constitutional rights in their zeal to extend those restrictions into blue states.
Congressional Democrats must get in front of this and do whatever they can to backstop the core constitutional principle that a state’s laws and protections apply to everyone who is physically within that state. If Senate Republicans want to filibuster such legislation, let them publicly reconcile that with their supposed reverence for state sovereignty.