Missouri Republican seeks exceptions to near-total abortion ban, including for rape and incest cases

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri Republican on Wednesday proposed constitutional amendments that would allow exceptions to the state's near-total abortion ban in cases of rape, incest and fatal abnormalities.

Suburban St. Louis resident Jamie Corley, 36, proposed the constitutional amendments to allow those exceptions up until viability, which typically is around 24 weeks. The exception for rape would only apply if the assault is reported to a crisis hotline.

Another proposal Corley filed would allow abortions for any reason up to 12 weeks into pregnancy.

All of her proposals would shield those seeking abortions and health care providers from criminal prosecution and civil penalties.

Missouri now bans almost all abortions, which Corley said is “completely out of line with voters.” The only exception is for medical emergencies.

“People are appalled that the current law doesn’t have exceptions and doesn’t protect women and health care providers from prosecution," she said.

Another group of activists has been campaigning to enshrine abortion rights in the Missouri Constitution, with limited room for lawmakers to regulate the procedure after viability.

But the competing abortion-rights campaign has been tied up in court battles and fights with the Republican attorney general and secretary of state.

Corley said she wanted an alternative that is “actually passable” in Missouri, where there is “elasticity with what it means to be pro-life." She said while one may generally be opposed to abortion, they "don’t agree that completely banning it is the most rational or compassionate policy.”

Both of Missouri's Republican U.S. senators have said they support abortion in cases of rape and incest.

An Associated Press request for comment Wednesday to Missouri Right to Life was not immediately returned.

Some abortion-rights supporters are wary of Corley's proposal. Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri President and CEO Yamelsie Rodríguez said “exceptions have never provided meaningful access.”

“While some are proposing ballot measures that will continue to harm Missourians, we will continue to fight for the meaningful access that Missourians need," she said in a statement.

Missouri is among many states turning to voters after the U.S. Supreme Court last year reversed Roe v. Wade and took away a nationwide right to abortion.

Since then, the issue appeared on the ballot in six states. In all of them, including generally conservative Kansas and Kentucky, the abortion rights side prevailed.

A measure to ensure abortion access is on the November ballot in Ohio after withstanding legal challenges from opponents. That state’s voters in August rejected a measure that would have required at least 60% of the vote to amend the state constitution, an approach supported by abortion opponents that would have made it harder to adopt the November ballot question.

Ballot measures on abortion could also be before voters in 2024 in states including Arizona, Maryland, New York and South Dakota. But in conservative Oklahoma, an initiative petition to legalize abortion was withdrawn a month after it started.