ACLU Trying to Overturn Missouri Pro-Life Law Banning Abortions When Baby’s Heartbeat Begins

State   Micaiah Bilger   Jul 8, 2019   |   4:23PM    Jefferson City, MO

The American Civil Liberties Union is pushing forward with its plan to stop a new Missouri law that protects unborn babies from abortion after their heartbeats are detectable.

On Sunday, the abortion advocacy group held several meetings across the state to drum up support for a petition to repeal the law, ABC News 17 reports. The pro-life law passed the state legislature in May, but abortion activists hope to repeal it through voter referendum in 2020.

“Right now we cannot begin collecting signatures because a referendum petition is still tied up in court, but we believe that if we have six weeks we can collect 100,000 signatures across the state of Missouri,” said Nicole Rainey, development director for the ACLU of Missouri.

On Monday, the ACLU also asked an appellate court to approve its petition after Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft rejected it in June, the AP reports.

Here’s more from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The Missouri branch’s acting executive director, Tony Rothert, told a three-judge panel of the state’s Court of Appeals on Monday that it had been premature for GOP Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft to reject petitions by it and prominent Republican donor David Humphreys to put the law on the 2020 ballot.

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Rothert wants to begin the process of collecting the more than 100,000 required signatures by July 18.

He says the petition-gathering process needs to be completed before most of the new law, including the eight-week abortion ban, takes effect Aug. 28. The court didn’t immediately rule.

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 It includes incremental stages to ban abortions after 14 weeks or 18 weeks if the earlier bans are repealed.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.

Gov. Mike Parson signed it into law in May.

In June, Ashcroft said the ACLU 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.

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).