JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft approved the circulation of petitions in the state for a chance to put the legislation that bans abortions after eight weeks up for a public vote in 2020.
This gives pro-choice supporters only 14 days to gather over 100,000 signatures they’ll need to put it on the 2020 ballot.
“It’s outrageous,” said M’Evie Mead, Director of Policy and Organizing for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Missouri. “But unfortunately not surprising right now that the Secretary of State has robbed Missourians of their constitutional right to refer this terrible extreme bill to the ballot where Missourians would have a chance to vote it down.”
For a referendum petition, supporters will have to gather a certain amount of signatures from each congressional district.
The American Civil Liberties Union sent in the application in May.
Ashcroft initially denied the application in June, citing the ACLU could not challenge a law that’s already partially in effect – that’s the emergency clause requiring minors seeking an abortion to notify a parent or guardian.
“We are trying every which way we can to make sure that people can continue,” Mead said. “Even though it’s already quite difficult in Missouri, but that they can still access safe legal abortion.”
In July, a court-ordered Ashcroft to approve the referendum application.
House Bill 126, according to the secretary of state website, says it will amend Missouri law to:
- provide the unborn child with the same protections as those already born.
- prohibit abortions at eight weeks of gestation (at which time there is a medically detected heartbeat), except in cases of a medical emergency.
- establish successive times at which abortions are prohibited (fourteen weeks, eighteen weeks, twenty weeks, all with medical emergency exceptions) if earlier time frames are found unlawful.
- prohibit an abortion based solely on the sex, race or Down Syndrome screening of the unborn child
“There is an election in 2020,” said Mead. “Many of the people responsible for these bills are up for election. I think people are thinking hard about that and getting ready for that.”
OzarksFirst reached out to Secretary Ashcroft’s office, but has not heard anything back yet.
Pro-choice supporters have until August 28 to get the signatures. If they don’t receive enough, the law will go into effect that day.
To read the timeline leading up to this event, click here.