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Cole County judge dismisses one lawsuit seeking to put abortion bill on ballot

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — One of the lawsuits seeking to overturn the rejection of a referendum petition on the sweeping abortion bill has been given the boot by a Cole County judge.

On Thursday, Judge Daniel Green dismissed with prejudice the legal challenge filed by the ACLU of Missouri against Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft. The decision came just two days after an initial hearing in which Green ordered the ACLU to amend its petition by close of business Thursday.

The dismissal order was less than half a page in length and did not include any reasoning. The ACLU plans to appeal to a higher court.

A similar lawsuit filed by David Humphreys is still in play in Cole County with a hearing scheduled for Monday afternoon.

Both lawsuits contend Ashcroft acted outside of his purview in rejecting three referendum petitions which sought to give voters the final say in a sweeping anti-abortion bill signed into law by Gov. Mike Parson in May.

The issue at hand, according to Ashcroft, is the emergency clause attached to the bill. The emergency clause resulted in a portion of the bill going into effect immediately after being signed into law.

The provision in place is a requirement for both parents of a minor to be notified if she seeks an abortion.

The vast majority of the provisions — banning abortion at eight weeks, along with “nestled” components to include restrictions at 14, 18, and 20 weeks should a court overturn a portion of the law, and an outright abortion ban if Roe v. Wade is overturned — will go into effect on August 28.

Last month, the ACLU and Humphreys, a prominent Republican donor, each submitted a referendum petition on HB 126 in its entirety. The third referendum petition — also submitted by Humphreys — does not include the provision already in effect.

The decision to reject the three petitions was made by the Secretary of State’s Office based on its review of the law and case precedent.

The lawsuits argued the lone provision does not actually constitute an emergency, and Ashcroft should have been evaluating the petitions on form only.

In dismissing in the case, the ACLU is now able to appeal the decision to a higher court.

For a referendum vote to be called, 5 percent of legal voters in six of eight congressional districts — at least 100,126 Missourians — must sign the petition by August 28, 2019. Signatures cannot be gathered before the Secretary of State’s Office approves the referendum petition for circulation.