Court says ACLU can collect signatures to put MO abortion ban on ballot

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Western District Court of Appeals Monday ruled that the ACLU may soon begin to collect signatures in an effort to repeal Missouri’s recently passed 8-week abortion ban.

The three judge panel ruled that Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft acted “without authority” to reject the petition on constitutional grounds. The court ordered him to approve the petition and allow signature collection to begin.

The Secretary of State’s Office did not immediately return a request for comment.

“Blocking the ballot box was a cowardly move designed to silence the people’s voice. We are pleased with the court’s decision and will evaluate next steps in ensuring this law does not go into effect,” said Tony Rothert, Legal Director of the ACLU of Missouri.

At issue is how the Republican-led Legislature voted to classify a section of the bill that changed the law to make both parents consent to abortions for minors in most cases. Because lawmakers made it an “emergency clause,” it took effect as soon as Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed it into law.

Under Missouri law, there is no right for a referendum when the law is addressing an emergency. The ACLU argued that parental consent isn’t actually an emergency, while the law said it is “because of the need to protect the health and safety of women and their children, both unborn and born.”

The emergency issue is what led Ashcroft to reject the petitions from the ACLU and prominent Republican donor David Humphreys, who has cited the lack of exceptions for rape and incest in his opposition to the policy, which does include exceptions for medical emergencies.

Humphreys’ attorney, Lowell Pearson, said in an email that “No decision has been made as of yet” about how to proceed. The two cases were not lumped together.

Once the ballot language is issued by the Secretary of State’s Office, supporters have until Aug. 28 to collect 100,000 signatures.

This ruling comes amid another court battle over the state’s only abortion clinic, Planned Parenthood of St. Louis.

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