JEFFERSON CITY — As promised, a wealthy conservative donor to Republican causes has written a $1 million check in an effort to overturn Missouri’s restrictive new abortion law.
A filing with state campaign regulators Friday shows the money from David Humphreys going to a newly formed political action committee known as the Committee to Protect the Rights of Victims of Rape & Incest.
It is the first known contribution to the PAC.
Humphreys, a Joplin businessman, had previously urged Republican Gov. Mike Parson to veto the abortion changes, saying a lack of exceptions in House Bill 126 allowing for abortion in cases of rape and incest “is bad public policy and bad for Missourians.”
At the time, Humphreys said he would back a referendum asking voters to overturn the legislation if the governor put his signature on the measure.
The big money contribution is the latest development in the fight over the new law and the future of abortion in Missouri.
State regulators, for example, are clashing with Planned Parenthood over licensing for the state’s lone abortion provider in St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood.
On Thursday, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said he had rejected two proposed referendums on the law submitted by the Humphreys-back group and the ACLU of Missouri.
Ashcroft, a Republican, said he could not allow the petitions to move forward because part of the law took effect immediately after Parson signed it last month.
The provision banning most abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy takes effect on Aug. 28, but a lesser-known provision that requires two-parent notification for minors seeking an abortion took effect last month.
The Republican-led Legislature tacked on what is known as an “emergency clause” to the two-parent notification requirement — the reason that provision took effect immediately.
“Because of that declaration by the Legislature, and because of the responsibility of the Secretary of State’s office to follow Missouri Supreme Court precedent, and the Constitution, we have no other avenue but to reject Referendum 1 and Referendum 2,” Ashcroft said.
Humphreys and the ACLU want the referendums to be approved so backers may start collecting signatures to place a question on the November 2020 ballot.
If the courts reverse Ashcroft’s action, and the language is approved, proponents of a referendum will have until Aug. 28 to turn in more than 100,000 signatures to the secretary of state in order to suspend the law until voters weigh in.
Ashcroft’s office has made no decision on the validity of a third referendum, also submitted by Humphreys. That proposal seeks to strike everything but the two-parent notification.
Lowell Pearson, attorney for Humphreys, filed a lawsuit Friday challenging Ashcroft’s action in court. Pearson said the emergency clause applies to less than 10% of the entire law, meaning the entire law has not been deemed an emergency, only a section.
“We are requesting immediate relief from the Cole County Circuit Court to allow our petition to proceed, which will let Missouri voters decide this monumental public policy issue. Our campaign began to ensure women and underage minors who are the victims of rape and incest are protected. This is a significant step forward in the fight to protect those who have already been victimized by rape or incest. We are committed to that goal,” Humphreys said in a statement Friday.
Among those named in the suit was Auditor Nicole Galloway, a Democrat who opposes the new law.
She said she was included in the legal effort because her office is merely fulfilling its responsibility to create an analysis of the costs of the ballot measure.
Under state law, within 20 days of receiving a proposed petition, the auditor sends the fiscal note to the attorney general as part of the initiative petition process.
“Auditor Galloway has consistently expressed a deep concern about efforts to stifle the voice of the people on ballot initiatives. She disagrees with this latest attempt to limit the power of Missourians to have their voices heard. Auditor Galloway is fighting to uphold citizens’ constitutional rights to hold Jefferson City accountable through the referendum process,” noted a statement issued Friday.
The law bans abortions at eight weeks, meaning access to abortion in the earliest stages of a pregnancy would not be banned.
But after eight weeks, the only exceptions allowing for abortions would be in medical emergencies. There are no exceptions in cases of rape or incest.
While the law allows abortions before eight weeks of pregnancy, if the landmark Roe v. Wade case is overturned by the conservative U.S. Supreme Court, that ruling would trigger another provision in Missouri’s law outlawing nearly all abortions; the only exception would be in medical emergencies.
Humphreys, whose Tamko Building Products makes roofing shingles, has funneled millions of dollars toward GOP causes in recent years, including to the election of U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley and to the House Republican fundraising arm.
During the 2016 election cycle, Humphreys and his family contributed more than $14 million to Republicans.