ACLJ Slams Pro-Abortion Missouri Ballot Initiatives as “Grossly Biased”


Walter M. Weber

September 6, 2023

5 min read

Pro Life



In an amicus brief filed in state court in Missouri, the ACLJ, joined by Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America (SBA), labeled a set of pro-abortion initiatives as “rife with euphemistic, incomplete, and misleading language.” The consolidated cases, pending in the Circuit Court of Cole County, Missouri, involve a fight over the Missouri Secretary of State’s summary statements regarding six proposed pro-abortion amendments to the state constitution.

In Missouri, citizens can propose amendments to the state constitution. To do so, they first submit a draft amendment to the state. Next, after state officials draft summaries of the proposal and its fiscal impact, the amendment proponents gather signatures in support. With enough valid signatures, the measure is placed on the ballot for an upcoming election. Finally, if the public votes in favor of the initiative, it becomes part of the state constitution.

The consolidated cases styled Fitz-James v. Ashcroft arise from the Left’s attempt to trick Missourians into enshrining a right to abortion in their state constitution. Dr. Anna Fitz-James submitted 11 proposed amendments, all titled “The Right to Reproductive Freedom Initiative.” While the wording of the 11 initiatives varied, all sought to embody a super-Roe v. Wade right to abortion in the Missouri Constitution. On April 6, SBA and our sister organization, ACLJ Action, jointly submitted comments decrying the proposals.

The Missouri Secretary of State thereafter prepared a “summary statement” to be attached to the petition forms used to gather voter signatures in support of placing the measures on the ballot. But Fitz-James did not like the summary statements at all. Represented by the ACLU of Missouri, Fitz-James sued in an attempt to force the Secretary of State to rewrite the summary statements in a way that Fitz-James prefers. (Curiously, her suit only addresses six of the eleven proposals, probably indicating she does not intend to pursue the other five.)

That’s where the ACLJ and SBA came in, submitting a friend-of-the-court brief opposing Fitz-James’ challenges. Our brief points out that the Supreme Court of Missouri has emphasized that initiatives are primarily political matters for the people, and that the twofold goal for initiatives is, in that court’s words, (1) “an informed understanding by the people of the probable effects of the proposed amendment” and (2) “prevent[ing] a self-serving faction from imposing its will upon the people without their full realization of the effects of the amendment.” We argue:

In the present case, as explained further below, the initiatives which Fitz-James has proposed are exactly the sort of hide-the-ball, euphemistic proposals that aim to deceive or mislead the public and to impose an agenda “without the[] full realization” of voters regarding what is at stake. If the goal is to ensure “that voters will not be deceived or misled,” . . . the initiatives badly fail that standard.

We then dissect several “grossly one-sided” and “profoundly deceptive” elements of the initiatives.

For example, we point out that the term “reproductive freedom” in the initiatives is undefined but can easily be read to include not just abortion but also abortions done on minors, sex-change drugs and surgeries for minors, and the squelching of conscience rights for medical providers. We also hammer the initiatives for completely omitting mention of the human child in the womb – the one who gets killed in abortion. We point out as well that when the initiatives pretend to authorize some limits, such as on late-term abortions or regarding abortions on minors, those limits are illusory.

Another instance of deceptiveness in the initiatives is that they mention that a “compelling interest” might justify the regulation of abortion. But as we note, that language “is a ruse, for at least two reasons.” First, the initiative language takes almost everything back, explicitly disallowing every asserted compelling interest except for pursuing the health of the woman getting the abortion. (The initiatives do not say “woman” or “mother,” but rather say “person” since, of course, as Planned Parenthood tells us, men can get abortions too.) But second, “[e]ven the sole permitted purpose of furthering maternal health is illusory because it is subject to a catch: that it ‘does not infringe on that person’s autonomous decision-making.’” So instead of a genuine exception, even if just one, we have, in effect, Lucy pulling back the football before Charlie Brown can ever kick it.

The Secretary of State’s summary does not embrace Fitz-James’ propagandistic wording, so naturally, Fitz-James and the ACLU claim the summary statement is incomplete, inaccurate, and misleading. But as we point out, the premises of these objections are precisely the “deceptive and misleading” elements of the initiatives themselves. We conclude:

While Fitz-James finds fault with the Secretary’s summary statements, the irony is that her own initiatives are replete with deceptive and misleading language and glaring omissions. She is in no position to criticize the Secretary’s summaries, which at least provide some means for the voters to recognize that there are in fact major controversies underlying the too-smooth wording of the initiatives. This Court should deny relief to Plaintiff Fitz-James.

The case is scheduled for a hearing on September 11 in state circuit court.