One Missouri abortion rights effort ends campaign, clearing path for more expansive proposal

A Republican-led effort to overturn Missouri’s near-total abortion ban on Thursday suspended its campaign, paving a path forward for a more expansive effort to reach the ballot.

The campaign, led by Jamie Corley, a former Republican congressional staffer, and her group The Missouri Women and Family Research Fund would have legalized abortion up to 12 weeks and added exceptions for rape and incest.

“Having two initiatives on the ballot would create confusion and potentially split the vote. No one wants that, so we have decided to suspend our campaign to amend Missouri’s abortion law,” Corley said in a statement.

Corley had pitched the proposal as a middle ground between the abortion ban and the more expansive proposals backed by a coalition of the state’s leading abortion rights groups. However, several abortion rights supporters were skeptical, arguing it would have given lawmakers too much room to regulate reproductive health care.

The decision to end the campaign comes after the competing abortion rights effort launched its campaign late last month and had since raised more than $3 million as of last week. Corley’s campaign, by comparison, had just more than $60,000 on hand at the end of December.

The competing effort, called Missourians for Constitutional Freedom, includes the ACLU of Missouri, Abortion Action Missouri, Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes and Advocates of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.

The coalition is pushing a measure that would enshrine the right to an abortion in the state constitution but also give lawmakers leeway to regulate the procedure after fetal viability. The campaign announced last week that more than 5,000 volunteers have joined the campaign and it hosted a series of signature-gathering events earlier this week.

Campaigners and volunteers need to collect more than 170,000 signatures from voters by May to get the proposal on the ballot. The coalition’s fundraising page estimates that signature collections will cost roughly $5 million.

Corley on Thursday said she would also dismiss an ongoing lawsuit with Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft that challenged the ballot summary he wrote for the proposal. She also appeared to throw her support behind the competing measure.

“It is our sincere hope that come November, this ban will be overturned and women will have access to the health care they want, need and deserve,” she said.