JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri voters may end up having the final say on a sweeping anti-abortion bill recently signed into law — provided the advocacy group is successful in getting it to the ballot.
On Tuesday, the first business day after Gov. Mike Parson signed HB 126 into law, the ACLU of Missouri submitted a referendum petition to the Missouri secretary of state, seeking certification for circulation. Once approved, 5 percent of legal voters in six of eight congressional districts — at least 100,126 Missourians — need to sign the petition before the bill can make it to the ballot.
If the necessary signatures are collected and submitted, the law will not go into effect until a statewide vote has been made — giving voters the final say in the measure.
“Failing to protect the right to an abortion violates the individual freedom of Missourians. HB 126 runs counter to our shared belief in autonomy and it has devastating health consequences for Missourians who become pregnant,” said Sara Baker, legislative and policy director with the ACLU of Missouri, who filed the referendum petition.
The controversial bill bans abortions at eight weeks, and it includes many “nestled” components to include restrictions at 14, 18, and 20 weeks should a court overturn a portion of the law. The only exception to the law is for medical emergencies. No concessions were made for rape or incest.
The bill also includes a so-called trigger provision, which would outright ban all abortions if Roe v. Wade — the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared a woman’s constitutional right to privacy includes medical decisions such as abortion — is overturned.
The measure received widespread support from Republican lawmakers, with only one GOP representative voting against the bill.
Rep. Nick Schroer, the sponsor of HB 126, noted the legislation was “carefully crafted” to comply with abortion jurisprudence while “attempting to save as many unborn Missourians as possible.”
“It is a shame that the ACLU, the same group that petitioned the US Supreme Court to stop rapists getting the death penalty, is standing firm on allowing executions of our unborn. It is time these partisan groups stop their political games and look at ways we can better the lives of Missourians,” Schroer told The Missouri Times. “It is time the very rights we preserve for those with a heartbeat outside of the womb are honored for those with a heartbeat (and brain function) inside their mother. I am firmly committed to fighting for life at all stages, and I know Missouri stands with the unborn!”
This is not the first time opponents to a measure have sought a referendum in recent years.
During the 2017 regular session, the General Assembly passed a right-to-work law. Unions then proceeded to gather more than 300,000 signature to put it on the ballot. In August 2018, voters soundly rejected the law.
This article is part of a periodic update on the initiative petition process. Other stories in the series can be found here.
Alisha Shurr was a reporter for The Missouri Times and The Missouri Times Magazine. She joined The Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University.