Protesters gathered Friday afternoon in the Missouri State Capitol to demand that Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft work quickly to release a referendum petition that seeks to put to a public vote a Missouri law that bans abortion at eight weeks of pregnancy.
About 30 people attended the protest in support of the American Civil Liberties Union’s efforts to get House Bill 126 onto a ballot. Gov. Mike Parson signed the bill May 24.
“This is about women’s rights to control their own bodies,” 72nd District Rep. Doug Clemens, D-St. Ann, said.
Ashcroft in June rejected two referendum petitions on the matter. He said they were unconstitutional because they targeted legislation that already had taken effect.
Ashcroft cited an emergency clause in the law that requires consent from both parents before a minor can have an abortion. That portion of the law took effect immediately; the rest is scheduled to become law Aug. 28.
The Missouri Court of Appeals in July said Ashcroft was without authority to rule the referendum petitions unconstitutional and ordered him to certify sample language that petitioners could circulate.
Clemens said he believes better access to contraception and sex education are better approaches than changing abortion laws.
The organizer of the event, Holly Bickmeyer, said she was happy with the turnout because there were a few otherprotests statewide that would allow more people to show their support.
“I think it made it more personal,” she said about the small crowd. She said the protest doubled as an opportunity to register more voters.
Attendees had the chance to cast a fake ballot before Bickmeyer threw them in the trash. Protesters began to chant “don’t trash our votes” after their ballots were thrown away.
“Politicians need to get out of our bedroom and back in the boardroom to work on decisions that really matter,” protester Susie Shultz said, adding that the choice of what a woman does with her body should remain with her.
The ACLU must collect 100,000 signatures on its petition by Aug. 28 to put the law on hold and to allow a public vote on it in 2020, according to The Associated Press.
“Making abortion illegal is not going to stop abortion,” Renee Hoagenson, a former Democratic candidate for Congress said. “This is about choice.”