Six weeks ago, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed into law the state’s ban against abortions after eight weeks, with no exceptions for rape or incest.
Now the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri is beginning to fight back.
The ACLU held organizational meetings at six locations across Missouri Sunday, including one at the Legacy Bar & Grill in the Academy neighborhood. Around 60 people attended to plant the seeds of a grassroots movement.
The ACLU hopes to fight the ban with a referendum on a ballot next year. However, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft ruled last month that referendums could not be held on the ban because one part of it — requiring that both parents of a minor be notified before she can have an abortion — took effect as soon as the governor signed it.
Jay-Marie Hill, transgender justice organizer with the ACLU of Missouri, said because this question is currently being challenged in the courts, the details of what will go into the referendum — if there can be one — will not be determined until that case is resolved.
The purpose of Sunday’s meetings was to find volunteers to lead teams of people to get signatures on possible petitions, and also to encourage attendees to become notaries public. Every sheet of a petition must be notarized before it can be submitted to the secretary of state.
State Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, addressed the crowd with his 4-year-old daughter Liza at his side. He said that she is the main reason he is involved in the issue.
The ban is “one of the worst laws we’ve passed in our history,” Merideth said.
“This is not an eight-week ban, this is an outright ban on abortion,” he added. He explained that the ban is written to take effect beginning at conception if the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade is overturned.
Also speaking at the meeting was Pamela Merritt, co-founder and co-director of Reproaction. She said, “the logical consequence of the abortion ban in 2019 is people going to jail. But this is not 1972,” the year before Roe v. Wade was decided.
Anti-abortion lobbyist Sam Lee, director of Campaign Life Missouri, opposes the efforts of the ACLU. He defended the ban, saying, “this is a measure which would protect the health and safety of women who are considering abortion and would also protect the lives of unborn children.”
As written now, the ban will begin on Aug. 28; the ACLU’s proposed referendum could keep it from being implemented at least until November of next year.