Anti-Abortion Activist Caught on Camera Detailing Plan to Keep Abortion Off Missouri Ballot

"We hope to delay as long as possible their ability to gather signatures,” said Pam Fichter, a Missouri Right to Life activist.

Anti-Abortion Activist Caught on Camera Detailing Plan to Keep Abortion Off Missouri Ballot
Pam Fichter speaking on June 24, 2023. Photo:Twitter/Laura Burkhardt (Fair Use)

In yet another example of conservatives doing everything they can to keep people from voting directly on abortion, a Missouri anti-abortion activist was caught on camera spelling out a detailed plot to stall pro-choice campaigners from getting a constitutional amendment on the ballot next fall.

In a pair of videos posted to Twitter earlier this week, Pam Fichter, the chair of Missouri Right to Life’s eastern region chapter, told supporters at a June 24 gathering, “I just wanted to fill you in on some things that I did not want to be on Channel 5 News.” KSDK News, aka Channel 5, had been on site to report on an anti-abortion event happening on the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade. Abortion has been banned in the state since the fall of Roe; the ballot measure would restore access.

Fichter proceeded to explain how anti-abortion activists would throw up obstacles at every turn in order to prevent campaigners from meeting a May 2024 deadline to submit signatures in support of putting abortion to a vote in November 2024. She summarized the overall plan this way: “We’re going to be trying to force them to use up their resources and to keep that off the ballot.” Missouri Right to Life did not respond to Jezebel’s request for comment.

Mallory Schwarz, executive director of Abortion Action Missouri (formerly Pro-Choice Missouri), said in a statement to Jezebel that anti-abortion politicians like the attorney general are “publicly colluding” with groups like Missouri Right to Life to keep the measure off the ballot as a “last-ditch effort to retain their own political power.” She added: “Access to abortion is popular and if given the chance, Missourians will vote to rebuild access to abortion in our state.”

The ACLU of Missouri has sued multiple state officials over delays in getting the measure on the ballot—a process that “statutorily should take 54 days” but ended up taking 141 days, ACLU of Missouri spokesperson Tom Bastian told Jezebel. Republican politicians “have chosen to violate the state Constitution’s promise of direct democracy in an attempt to deny Missourians the opportunity to vote” on abortion rights,” he added.

Schwarz compared the effort of trying to run out the clock on the time-sensitive ballot measure process to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers that lie to pregnant people to try to limit their access to abortion.

Laura Burkhardt, who posted the clips on Twitter, told Jezebel that she found the original video on the Facebook profile of a local anti-abortion activist. (That activist apparently didn’t heed Fichter’s call not to publicize the comments.) The location and attendees are the same in both the videos Burkhardt posted and the KSDK clip, and Fichter is wearing the same polo shirt with the Missouri Right to Life logo.

In the first video Burkhardt posted, Fichter said that a legal fight between state auditor Scott Fitzpatrick and Attorney General Andrew Bailey (R) over the fiscal impact of the proposed amendment was slowing down the pro-choice side’s ability to get the ballot measure approved. She even hinted that the conflict might have been on purpose: “They’re holding things up with the pro-abortion side’s ability to advance by having this confrontation at the state level, whether it’s planned or not, I can’t say.”

Fichter predicted that Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft (R) would write a ballot summary with anti-abortion talking points that the ACLU of Missouri would object to; Ashcroft later did just that. “They will challenge that language in the courts, if they prevail in the courts, we’ll challenge that,” she said. “So we hope to delay as long as possible their ability to gather signatures.” Fichter also said if the pro-choice side gets the green light to collect signatures, they’re going to train people on how to “encounter” signature gatherers.

In the second clip, she said another prong of the strategy was to push the state legislature to change the ballot measure process. “The other thing we’re trying to do with our legislature, which didn’t get accomplished this year, is we want to make it harder to change the Constitution. Right now it’s a simple majority plus one,” Fichter said. “We want them to make that more difficult.” (Ohio lawmakers are trying to alter their process ahead of an abortion ballot measure this fall.)

Fichter then reiterated that she doesn’t want any of this to get out: “I wanted to give you those details that we don’t necessarily want to see those on the evening news. We don’t really want to tell the other side all of the strategies that we’re involved in.”

This brazen admission of a plot to stall a statewide vote on abortion shows that conservatives know full well that abortion access is popular, even in red states, and they have to cheat to have any hope of prevailing.

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