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Democrat Crystal Quade plans to make abortion the central issue of Missouri's governor race

Rep. Crystal Quade (D-Springfield), house minority leader, speaks to the media alongside Rep. Richard Brown (D-Kansas City) on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022, during the first day of the legislative session at the Missouri Statehouse in Jefferson City, Missouri.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Rep. Crystal Quade (D-Springfield), house minority leader, speaks to the media on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022, during the first day of the legislative session at the Missouri Statehouse in Jefferson City, Missouri.

Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes is endorsing the House Minority Leader for governor. In a state where nearly all abortions have been illegal since Roe v. Wade was overturned, Quade says she supports putting the most expansive possible abortion access amendment on the 2024 ballot.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade believes abortion can win on the ballot in Missouri. And Planned Parenthood, which announced its endorsement of the Springfield Democrat’s campaign for governor on Monday, believes Quade can win, too.

Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes is endorsingQuade, who announced a campaign for governor in July. In a state where nearly all abortions have been illegal since Roe v. Wade was overturned, two rival coalitions are working to put the issue on the statewide ballot — placing the debate front and center heading into the 2024 campaign.

“This really is a crisis, and, regardless of political affiliation, Missourians are feeling that,” Quade said.

One other Democrat, Mike Hamra Springfield, the CEO of Hamra Enterprises, joined the gubernatorial race in October. The Republican field includes Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, state Sen. Bill Eigel and Army veteran and businessman Chris Wright.

“There are some pretty scary candidates out there for us,” said Emily Wales, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, whose coverage includes the Kansas City metro. “It’s not lost on us that we have candidates actively trying to undermine the democratic process and focused for years on keeping Planned Parenthood out of public programs like Medicaid, and so Crystal’s going to be in that fight on behalf of the patients and Missourians who need access to care.”

From the start, Quade has campaigned on restoring abortion rights.

Wales said she grew up in Missouri and remembers when, not too long ago, the state had more bipartisan leadership. She believes Quade, as governor, would send a message to lawmakers that Missourians overwhelmingly want better access to reproductive health care, including abortion.

Campaigning on abortion access

Missouri was the first state to enact its trigger lawafter Roe fell, only permitting abortions in medical emergencies.

Quade said since then, her constituents in southwest Missouri – where it used to be suggested that she not broach the topic of abortion – have been increasingly concerned about government overreach, regardless of political affiliation.

She gives one such example often.

Last election cycle, after the abortion decision, she knocked on the door of a 67-year-old white Republican who said while he opposed abortion, Missouri had gone too far.

“He just went off on how this is an attack on freedoms, talking about rape and incest victims, talking about how government has no business doing this,” Quade said. “I really do think Missourians as a whole are the type of people who don’t like government meddling in their business.”

Quade said in the past year she has also heard from Missouri women who were sent home from the doctor’s office while miscarrying because they were not in enough danger yet to qualify for an abortion. She increasingly gets news of doctors leaving the state, she said, making maternal health care access even more scarce in some rural areas.

“When the Republicans who wanted to pass these extreme bills wanted the rights to go to the states, I don’t know that they recognized what the citizens of the states were actually going to do,” she said of those speaking out against the abortion ban.

‘Let folks have access to care’

Polling completed by St. Louis Universityin the months after abortion became illegal showed Missouri voters could be supportive of loosening the state’s ban.

Now, two groups are attempting to push forward initiative petition campaigns that could put abortion on the ballot in Missouri next year.

One campaign, launched by Republican Jamie Corley, would make abortion legal up to 12 weeks of pregnancy and add exemptions for victims of rape and incest.

A separate coalition, called Missourians for Constitutional Freedom, filed eleven other initiative petitions that include varying abortion restrictions, ranging from 24 weeks gestation to “fetal viability.”

But the process to start gathering signatures was held up for both coalitions. The initiative petitions from both have beenin litigation with Ashcroftafter he submitted ballot summary language the courts deemed inaccurate and partisan.

“The patient’s served by Planned Parenthood are right in the crosshairs,” Wales said of her organization’s reasoning for supporting Quade. “What an opportunity to have a partner sitting in the governor’s office who wants to work with us to better their lives and not attack them.”

Meanwhile, Quade said she soon plans to file legislation seeking to put the most expansive version of the 11 initiative petitions filed by Missourians for Constitutional Freedom on the 2024 ballot. The language would give voters the option of taking down Missouri’s abortion ban with no gestational limits, and it would protect patients and medical providers from prosecution.

Quade knows passing her proposal through the Republican-dominated legislature is unlikely, but said she wants to keep the discussion alive in the upcoming legislative session.

If Missourians for Constitutional Freedom decides to move forward with a more restrictive initiative petition, Quade said she would still support its campaign.

As for Corley, Quade said she understands the desire for a more moderate version, but she is confident a more expansive version would pass “overwhelmingly.” Quade said she would not comment on whether she would support Corley’s initiative until after the ballot language was done being litigated.

“If we are going to put something to the vote of the people, I would like it to be just the basics: Let folks have access to care, and we don’t need to get into the nitty gritty of how many weeks that is and what that language looks like.” she said. “Let’s trust the doctors to do their jobs.”

Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes also endorsed Democrat Nicole Galloway for governor in 2020. She was defeated by nearly 17 percentage points by incumbent Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who can’t run again because of term limits.

Quade is also backed by the Missouri Women’s Leadership Coalition, the National Women’s Political Caucus, the Missouri Chapter of the Sierra Club and several labor groups, including the Missouri-Kansas-Nebraska Conference of Teamsters, Missouri AFL-CIO.

This story was originally published by the Missouri Independent.

Anna Spoerre covers reproductive health care for The Missouri Independent. A graduate of Southern Illinois University, she most recently worked at the Kansas City Star where she focused on storytelling that put people at the center of wider issues. Before that she was a courts reporter for the Des Moines Register.
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