(MISSOURINET).-- Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft has turned down a third referendum petition trying to reverse course on legislation that would strengthen abortion regulations. At the state Capitol, he responded to Missourinet about a court hearing Tuesday involving the first two requests he has denied. Ashcroft, a Republican, says all three are unconstitutional because part of the bill has already become law.
"I obviously don't know what the judge will hold. I know what the law says. The law is very clear that I have to certify something before it goes to the people as to whether or not it can be put on the ballot," says Ashcroft. "I felt that as soon as I knew that there was a Constitutional problem, I should make that known, so there was a chance that the individuals that had filed it with us, might be able to cure that. That's what I do. I try to treat everyone fairly and equitably and follow the law."
Lawmakers passed the House Bill 126 with a parental notification requirement designating the provision as an emergency - making that part take effect immediately after the governor's signature. Lowell Pearson, the attorney for Joplin businessman and Republican megadonor David Humphreys, says the third referendum application attempted to clear up the part of the law that has already taken effect.
Under the bill, both parents are required to be notified if a minor child wants an abortion. Doctors would face prison time if they do abortions on women with a fetal heartbeat. It also makes medical emergencies an exception for getting an abortion, but not for rape or incest. The measure would ban doctors from doing abortions if the baby would have Down syndrome or for sex or race-selective abortions.
Humphreys has said he's opposed to abortion, but he supports a woman's right to choose, particularly in rape or incest cases. Pearson says Humphreys is suing to try to let voters decide on the issue.
"This referendum procedure that we have invoked is a very fundamental Constitutional right. The courts have said time after time that these rights of the citizens to the initiative and referendum should be zealously guarded," he says. "This is a reservation of the right of the people to establish what they want the law to be. There is nothing more important in our Constitution than the ability to use the referendum process."
Meanwhile, another hearing on the first two requests is scheduled for Monday at 1:30 p.m. in Cole County Circuit Court before Judge Daniel Green.
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