Pro-choice supporters say Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft “manipulated” an effort to overturn new abortion regulations through “obstructionist behavior”. Ashcroft approved a referendum effort on Wednesday to gather signatures for a public vote. The move makes it extremely difficult for abortion rights collectors to gather signatures before most of the new restrictions take effect on August 28. Ashcroft defends his office’s work on the request.

The Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City

“The ACLU, frankly didn’t file the referendum in a timely manner. They had ten days to file it before the law went into effect, which would have changed how we approached that referendum,” says Ashcroft tells Missourinet at the State Fair in Sedalia. “But they waited until after the governor had signed it – until after the emergency clause had gone into effect.”

Ashcroft, a Republican, goes on to say the petition took more investigation to make sure his office was following the law.

“The same organization (the ACLU) that was saying that I wasn’t listening to the voice of the people, was trying to stop me from having the statutorily-mandated 15 day comment period for the people of Missouri to comment on the referendums. By the end of that 15 day period, we had over 1,100 comments,” says Ashcroft.

In a statement from Robin Utz, treasurer of the No Bans On Choice Committee, she says the crusade will continue.

“Our commitment to protecting Missourians’ right to legal abortion is unwavering. The referendum is one tool to protect the rights of the people. There are others, and we will evaluate the best route forward to ensure Missourians retain control over their bodies, their decisions, and their democracy,” says Utz. “We are reviewing the ballot language released by Secretary Ashcroft today. He dragged his feet for 78 days before providing this ballot language, leaving Missourians with the impossible task of collecting 100,000 signatures in 14 days. He has effectively prevented voters from defeating the extreme eight-week abortion ban at the ballot box. It is outrageous that Secretary Ashcroft, Missouri’s chief elections officer, ran out the clock.”

Under House Bill 126, it would ban abortions around eight weeks of pregnancy. Medical emergencies are exceptions but not rape or incest.

Physicians who violate the law would face five to fifteen years in prison. It would also forbid doctors from doing abortions if the baby would have Down syndrome or for sex or race-selective abortions.

Additionally, the legislation requires both parents to be notified if a minor child wants an abortion.

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