Speaker: Abortion rights will return to Missouri as ballot reform stalls in Senate

(The Center Square) – The GOP’s leading House lawmaker warned that the state would see abortion rights restored if the Senate didn’t take action on changing the Constitution.

Missouri House Speaker Dean Plocher, R-St. Louis, held his end-of-session briefing with reporters on Friday, two hours before mandatory adjournment.

“If the Senate fails to take action on (initiative petition) reform, I think the Senate should be held accountable for allowing abortion to return to Missouri,” Plocher said.

The Senate didn’t pass House Joint Resolution 43 or any other bills on Friday as the clock struck 6 p.m. in the Capitol in Jefferson City.

The legislation would have required voters to approve changing the initiative petition process from getting a simple majority of the vote to change the state constitution to 57%. Throughout the General Assembly’s five-month session, Republicans didn’t state the legislation was intended to make it harder for an initiative petition to be passed restoring abortion rights to the state Constitution in the coming years. The word “abortion” wasn’t mentioned during House floor debate on Wednesday when an amended version was passed and sent to the Senate.

“I think abortion will be allowed because of the ballot candy it will have,” Plocher said, referring to possible language on the ballot.

When asked if he thought an abortion rights amendment would pass with a simple majority of Missouri’s voters, Plocher responded, “Absolutely.”

Democrats in both chambers pounced on Plocher’s revelation.

“It’s really funny when the Republicans say the quiet part out loud,” House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said. “And that’s exactly what the speaker did. They want to do IP reform because they know the citizens don’t like what they’re doing here.”

Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, said Republicans lacked awareness when pushing the legislation.

“Women are angry with the way they’ve been treated, and they should be,” Rizzo said. “I wish we could change that (in the Legislature) and not have to deal with (an initiative). But they will deal with the wrath of a lot of women across country and state who feel like they haven’t been listened to, ignored and not having autonomy over their own body.”

Filibusters took up most of four of the last seven days of the Senate’s session. First-year Senate Majority Floor Leader Cindy O’Laughlin, R-Shelbina, the first woman to serve in the position, was praised by both parties for her leadership.

O’Laughlin said this year’s session was successful compared to last year and that most issues addressed in the final days are universally controversial.

“Go down to the local coffee shop where there’s 20 or 30 people and bring up a hot topic and see if all of them agree,” O’Laughlin said. “That’s how it is. Everyone has a different opinion and it can be very difficult to get everyone on the same path. We had a great year this year. The fact that the session at the end got kind of tangled up is not an unusual occurrence.”

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