Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft will face a legal challenge for his rejection of a referendum that would put the state legislature’s new abortion ban to a public vote – and was branded a “coward” by a prominent area women’s rights advocate.

Ashcroft rejected the referendum on the authority of the Missouri Constitution, which makes exceptions to people’s right to a referendum for “laws necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, and laws making appropriations for the current expenses of the state government, for the maintenance of state institutions and for the support of public schools.”

Ashcroft stated that because the legislature approved House Bill 126 and its emergency clause that makes the law effective immediately with the constitutionally required two-thirds vote of both houses of the legislature, HB126 may not be referred to the people. The law, signed by Gov. Mike Parson, bans abortion in Missouri after eight weeks – with no exception for incest or other forms of rape. It also imposes criminal penalties upon physicians who break the law.

Ashcroft is Republican, like Parson and the majority in both houses of the legislature.

David C. Humphreys, a successful Missouri business leader and prominent funder of Republican candidates for public office, opposes the new law because of its failure to make exceptions for incest or other forms of rape. He had pushed for a public referendum – and will continue to work to undo the law.

“We remain committed to pursuing a referendum on HB126,” Ken Spain, a consultant for Humphreys, told The American, “and are prepared to take the necessary steps, including available legal remedies, to ensure women and underage minors who are victims of rape and incest have a greater voice on this issue.”

Alison Dreith, deputy director at Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, Illinois, and a veteran advocate for women’s issues, called Ashcroft a coward for rejecting the referendum.

“This cowardly move by the secretary of state proves that Missouri’s anti-abortion zealots understand that they’re acting against the wishes of the majority in Missouri,” Dreith told The American. “They hope to short-circuit the people’s vote because they know they will lose.”

Dreith said the Hope Clinic has already seen over a 30 percent increase in the number of patients traveling from Missouri to seek abortion care because of Missouri’s new abortion restrictions.

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