Judge asks plaintiffs to amend petitions asking for referendum vote on Missouri abortion ban

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A Cole County Judge has asked parties that have filed separate referendum petitions asking for a public vote on Missouri's abortion ban to amend their petitions and resubmit under a writ of mandamus.

Republican megadonor David Humphreys and the American Civil Liberties Union each filed referendum petitions that would block the controversial eight week abortion ban signed by Governor Mike Parson in May until it is taken to a vote of the people.

Last week, Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft denied both, citing the emergency clause in House Bill 126.

That emergency clause made the requirement for both parents of a minor to be notified if she seeks an abortion go into effect immediately after Parson signed it into law.

Both petitioners say the emergency clause does not actually constitute an emergency, which would prevent a referendum from happening.

The two parties had asked for a temporary restraining order on Ashcroft, which would allow state offices to continue to work on the fiscal note of the referendum and create a ballot title while the court sorts out the affect of the partial emergency clause.

Attorneys for the Secretary of State's office say a temporary restraining order would disrupt the status quo.

Lowell Pearson, the attorney representing Humphreys, said the amended petition will not be technically different than what was presented, and will still ask for that temporary restraining order.

Both parties have to submit their amended petitions by Thursday. A second hearing will be held Monday at 1:30 p.m.

A third petition, which was submitted by Humphreys, asks voters to strike everything in the law except the two-parent notification provision. Ashcroft struck it down as well just minutes after Tuesday's hearing ended, also citing the emergency clause.

“A small number of state constitutions provide an option to refer a portion of a law to the people for a vote, but Missouri does not have that option,” Ashcroft said in a statement Tuesday.

If either Humphrey or the ACLU win their legal challenges, they have to gather five percent of signatures from legal voters in six of eight congressional districts before August 28 for it to be put on the ballot.