Secretary of State John (Jay) Ashcroft appeals the case to the Missouri Supreme Court and prevails, Missouri voters will have a chance to reject the abortion ban after eight weeks (with no exceptions for incest or other forms of rape) signed into law by Missouri Governor Mike Parson.

A three judge panel in the Western District Court of Appeals upheld the constitutional right of Missourians to a voter referendum on Monday, July 8, in a suit filed by the ACLU of Missouri.

The panel ruled that Ashcroft acted illegally in his rejection of the referendum petition challenging the ban and ordered Ashcroft to allow signature collection to move forward. The ACLU said once ballot language is issued by Ashcroft, supporters will have until August 28 to collect 100,000 signatures in six congressional districts.

“The Missouri Legislature and Secretary Ashcroft tried to block two constitutional rights – the right of the people to challenge a state law through referendum and the right of the people to receive an abortion,” said Tony Rothert, legal director and acting executive director for the ACLU of Missouri.

“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.”

Though the Republican super-majority passed the bill, a Republican governor signed it into law and Republican secretary of state is trying to block the referendum, Rothert said the appellate ruling was not partisan.

“In this case, this is really about the right and the constitution – that the people kept the right to referendum to overrule the legislature,” Rothert told The American. “That’s not a liberal versus conservative value – that is something that traditionally the courts have guarded safely.”

Rothert said it is very unusual for the secretary of state to act the way Ashcroft did, because traditionally, protecting the right of referendum has not been a partisan issue in Missouri.

Rothert said Ashcroft had until 4 p.m. on Wednesday, July 10 to request an appeal of the panel’s decision to the Missouri Supreme Court. A spokesperson for Ashcroft did not immediately respond to a query about his next steps.

“We are not afraid of the Missouri Supreme Court reviewing this case,” Rothert said. “We think that they would reach a similar conclusion – that the secretary of state was out-of-bounds in trying to take this referendum petition off-track.”

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