Every moment Secretary John R. Ashcroft fails to do his job by not issuing language for the citizen’s veto of Missouri’s abortion ban is a direct insult to Missourians’ constitutional rights. Secretary Ashcroft is playing a dangerous game with Missouri voters by denying the people their right to a referendum. If Missourians wish to maintain their freedom in the democratic process, we must tell Secretary Ashcroft to let us gather signatures and put House Bill 126, the extreme bill that bans abortion after eight weeks, on the ballot.
Missourians oppose ending legal abortion. Advocates for reproductive freedom, individuals with deeply traumatic stories, and organizations that preserve constitutional rights have, and continue to, represent the majority of people across the state who believe HB 126 is dangerous.
House Bill 126 is unconstitutional and bans abortions at eight weeks, before many people even know they are pregnant. When Secretary Ashcroft tried to block HB 126 from a vote of the people he acted in an unprecedented, illegal way. Secretary Ashcroft elevated politicians above their constituents and intervened to circumvent the people’s right to vote. That is antithetical to the job of being Missouri’s Secretary of State. Corrupting the Constitution to uphold partisan politics is craven. It shows zero belief that the system of democracy itself has value. We must not let this behavior to continue.
The people have a right to weigh in on HB 126 with a vote. Frankly, Missourians have the right to bring a referendum on any piece of legislation they find objectionable. If this were any other issue, it’s doubtful the Secretary would have chosen to insert himself in the process. Secretary Ashcroft was willing to gamble the right of the people to have a referendum so that he could join the political fight to ban abortion.
We stopped him, and any other secretary of state, from this type of invention going forward at the Western District Court of Appeals. Now, Ashcroft must do his job and produce ballot language immediately so that the campaign to put HB 126 before voters can start gathering signatures. The clock is ticking.
We know what Ashcroft is doing – it’s a delay tactic. And unfortunately, it's working. Stalling by not writing the ballot language now impedes the referendum campaign. Over 100,000 signatures from Missouri residents are needed by August 28, to successfully put HB 126 on the ballot. In reality, the campaign will have to collect twice that to overcome any errors. Secretary Ashcroft’s actions threaten to disenfranchise Missouri voters.
If we, the voice of the people, want to protect our constitutional rights, we must call Secretary Ashcroft and demand he do his job. He must write ballot language now so that people can have a voice on HB 126. Call Secretary Ashcroft and ask him to approve ballot language immediately. Failing to protect the right to an abortion violates the individual freedom of Missourians. House Bill 126 runs counter to our shared belief in autonomy and it has devastating consequences for our constitutional rights.
Erin King, MD
Gynecologist & executive director
Hope Clinic for Women, Ltd.