Select pro-life, pro-choice groups oppose, remain neutral or stay silent on ballot measure
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – With just three weeks until the Nov. 8 election, voters will decide whether or not to enshrine Amendment 3, the Early Childhood Education Amendment, into the state’s constitution.
The Missouri Times has written for months about the fight that has sprung up against Amendment 3 from a faction supporting an alternative tobacco tax amendment. The legal battle over the official ballot title, the subsequent legal battle of Secretary of State Jason Kander’s decision to certify that ballot title and distribute it, the attacks from all kinds of advocacy groups – all of it over a seemingly innocuous bill meant to give Missouri’s youngest children better access to early education.
Yet one of the more curious attacks on the issue has stemmed from language that makes up a portion of the third section of the bill and how it relates to abortion.
NARAL, researchers oppose Amendment 3
The section of the amendment explicitly forbids money from going towards anything that can remotely be considered abortion or human cloning, including embryonic stem cell research. The relevant section reads as follows:
“None of the funds collected, distributed or allocated from the Early Childhood Health and Education Trust Fund shall be expended, paid or granted to or on behalf of existing or proposed activities, programs or initiatives that involve abortion services including performing, inducing or assisting with abortions, as defined in law, or encouraging patients to have abortions, referring patients for abortions not necessary to save the life of the mother, or development of drugs, chemicals, or devices intended to be used to induce an abortion. None of the funds collected, distributed or allocated from the Early Childhood Health and Education Trust Fund shall be expended, paid or granted to or on behalf of any abortion clinic, abortion clinic operator, or outpatient health care facility that provides abortion services unless such services are limited to medical emergencies. No funds from the Early Childhood Health and Education Trust Fund shall be used for human cloning or research, clinical trials or therapies or cures using human embryonic stem cells, as defined in Article III, section 38(d).”
This section has caused opposition from two separate factions to denounce the amendment and voice their opposition against the bill. Missouri Cures, an advocacy group for scientific research, has opposed the measure in the past for creating a stigma around embryonic stem cell research. Washington University in St. Louis and the Stowers Institute of Medical Research in Kansas City have also opposed the bill for that reason.
Pro-choice groups have also nixed the language as is. Most recently, Alison Dreith, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice, said in a statement Tuesday that the ballot measure needlessly attacks a woman’s ability to choose.
“While it is being sold as a health care initiative, this ballot measure is actively being pushed by anti-choice leaders as a way to steer government money to groups that play politics with abortion,” Dreith said. “These ideologically driven groups lie to Missourians about their reproductive health care options and push a politically-charged agenda that has no business receiving public funding.”
Jane Dueker, a spokesperson for Yes on 3 for Kids, brushed off the opposition from NARAL as just another advocacy group frustrated they would not benefit from the massive revenue windfall that could result from this initiative. Estimates have stated that it would raise roughly $300 million in revenue – though all of that money would go to early childhood education and health care.
Besides, Dueker said, state money already cannot legally fund abortions.
“Sadly NARAL joins the list of politicians and special interests who are willing to hold our kids’ future hostage for the sole reason that they cannot divert the proceeds of Amendment 3 for their own purposes,” Dueker said. “Amendment 3’s refusal to fund abortion services per federal and state law does not change a woman’s right to choose in Missouri one iota.”
Dueker also said that Planned Parenthood has yet to announce their support or opposition to the measure.
Opposed by pro-choice… and pro-life?
However, some anti-abortion groups have also opposed the measure, which wrinkles the simplicity that usually characterizes the polarized debate over abortion rights and access. Ryan Johnson, the president of the Missouri Alliance for Freedom, said his conservative organization opposed Amendment 3 for multiple reasons, chief among them the “tax scheme” it institutes against small tobacco companies.
He also said that the abortion language within the bill contributed to their opposition. Essentially, Johnson fears the statute will legally make it so abortion becomes ultimately protected in the state constitution by its mere presence. Currently, the word “abortion” does not appear in the Missouri constitution.
“For all intents and purposes, it would enshrine abortion and abortion services into the Constitution,” Johnson said. “Even though some of that language might have been well-intended, it has the opposite effect of ensconcing abortion and abortion services and legitimizing those in cases of emergencies into the Missouri constitution, which is a step too far for many pro-life groups.”
Bev Ehlen, the state director of the Missouri chapter of Concerned Women for America, noted that she had early concerns about the bill for the same reasons. She added the organization’s legal team was also looking into the ramifications of specific legal language.
Yet, other pro-life groups have dismissed these concerns. Missouri Right to Life, the pre-eminent, anti-abortion group in the state, is officially neutral on the measure, but they said after “careful review” that they dismiss the notion that the bill could benefit pro-abortion rights groups.
The Missouri Catholic Conference agreed with that assessment.
“This proposed amendment… does not include any provision that would authorize funding for either abortion or embryonic stem cell research,” the MCC said. “No one supporting Amendment 3 should be concerned that any of the tax money raised by this proposal will be used to fund abortion or embryonic stem cell research. Any suggestion to the contrary is false.”