JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft struck down a third referendum petition seeking to give voters a final say on a restrictive abortion bill — just after a judge held an initial hearing regarding the previous two petitions he already rejected.
Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, signed the legislation at the end of May which restricts abortions up to eight weeks and is set to go into effect at the end of August. It includes exceptions in the case of a medical emergency but does not exempt victims of rape or incest from the restrictions — a cause of consternation for some Republicans as well.
Already, Ashcroft struck down two referendum petitions last week — from the ACLU of Missouri and GOP megadonor David Humphreys — because an emergency clause is attached to the bill, meaning a portion of it went into effect as soon as Parson gave his signature.
A third measure, which Ashcroft rejected Tuesday, had excluded the portion covered by the emergency clause, yet still it was denied.
“The Constitution of Missouri may not be changed — and never has been changed — without a vote of the people,” Ashcroft said in a statement.
The Secretary of State’s Office said a new precedent would be set should it approve a referendum petition while a portion of the law is already in place. It said a secretary of state has never done so in the past.
“The second petition we filed, Petition 2020-R003, does not include the emergency clause … apparently, that did not make a difference to the secretary [of state],” Lowell Pearson, Humphreys’ attorney, told The Missouri Times. “We’ll have to decide if we want to challenge that in court. I’m not certain if we will, but we probably will.”
Attorneys for Humphreys and the ACLU have filed lawsuits against the state, alleging the secretary of state acted outside his purview and the law in rejecting the referendum filed. The Committee to Protect the Rights of Victims of Rape & Incest, to which Humphreys’ donated $1 million, is also part of the lawsuit.
A Cole County Circuit Court judge held an initial hearing Tuesday afternoon with attorneys for the ALCU, Humphreys, and the state regarding the lawsuits filed last week. Both the ACLU and Humphreys were requested to amend the petitions before the case can continue.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a reporter with The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in March 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City. Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S. and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa. She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.