Missouri abortion activists filed petitions this month seeking to overturn the new state heartbeat law.
The pro-life law passed the state legislature in May, but abortion activists hope to repeal it through voter referendum in 2020.
The News Tribune reports three separate referendum petitions have been filed, including one by the ACLU and one by Joplin businessman David Humphreys, who is well known for donating to state Republican campaigns.
If the petitions collect enough signatures, they could prompt a referendum on the 2020 ballot asking voters to support or reject the pro-life law.
Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft rejected two of the petitions Thursday, and his decision on the third is expected soon, according to the report.
Ashcroft said the petitions do not qualify because of the following clause in the Missouri Constitution, “A referendum may be ordered (except as to laws necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety ).” He said the law falls under that exception.
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The Missouri Stands For the Unborn Act (HB 126) would ban abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable. It includes incremental stages to ban abortions after 14 weeks or 18 weeks if the earlier bans are repealed. In addition, it requires that both parents be notified before an underage girl has an abortion. It also includes a ban on discriminatory abortions based on an unborn baby’s sex, race or disability, as well as a complete abortion ban once Roe v. Wade is overturned.
However, the ACLU quickly filed a lawsuit challenging Ashcroft’s decision, the local news reports.
Samuel H. Lee of Campaign Life Missouri urged Missourians to contact Ashcroft’s office and urge him to reject the third petition as well.
“Think about what will happen if HB 126 never becomes law and the protections in the bill disappear,” Lee said. “Think about the thousands of unborn babies with a heartbeat who will never be born.
“Think about the thousands of unborn children who can experience pain, but who will continue to be torn limb from limb during the brutal ‘dismemberment’ abortion method after 14 weeks of pregnancy. Think of the babies at 20 weeks of pregnancy and later, who will experience unspeakable pain as they are being aborted by any method,” he continued.
According to the Missouri health department, 3,903 babies were killed in abortions in the state in 2017 and 119 of those were babies killed after 20 weeks.
Polling released earlier this year by the Susan B. Anthony List found that 82 percent of Missouri voters – including 66 percent of Democrats, 83 percent of independents, 83 percent of women, and 61 percent of self-described pro-choice voters – support a law prohibiting late-term abortions (only 18 percent support allowing late-term abortions).
ACTION: Contact the Missouri Secretary of State through the Accepting Comments on 2020 Referendum Petitions webpage here.