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Protesting the Missouri ban

Chris Riddle joins in chants with St. Louis marchers at Memorial Plaza Park during a reproductive-rights protest on May 25. 

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft last week rejected two proposed ballot measures that would allow voters to overturn the state’s draconian new law restricting abortion rights. Ashcroft says his hands are tied because his fellow Republicans in the Legislature designated part of the law an “emergency,” meaning it cannot be overturned by referendum.

That throws it to the courts to decide whether the Legislature’s emergency designation was made in good faith, or if it was — as is obvious — merely a ploy to deny voters any opportunity to have input. So far, the ploy has worked.

There is no emergency here. GOP extremists have commandeered Missouri’s state government and launched an all-out assault on the self-determination rights of women — even rape and incest victims — and now are muzzling public opposition to it. The American Civil Liberties Union has justifiably filed a court challenge in hopes of getting this question onto the ballot, giving voters a chance to build a firewall against this radical agenda.

This newspaper generally opposes government by referendum. Voters elect representatives for a reason. But the Legislature’s Republican supermajority is out of control and out of step with Missouri’s citizens. Consider how often voters in statewide referendums have reversed lawmakers on issues like the minimum wage, labor rights and ethics. Those and other reversals expose how broken representative government is in Missouri.

The newly signed abortion law is further proof of it. It outlaws all abortions at eight weeks, a point at which many women don’t even know they’re pregnant, and provides no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. Polls show majorities of citizens in Missouri, as around the nation, oppose such extreme restrictions.

Which explains why the Legislature was so careful to act preemptively to keep voters out of the process. A designated “emergency” section of the law requires pregnant teens to inform both parents, in addition to the current rule of just getting one parent’s consent, before obtaining an abortion. Ashcroft argues the emergency clause puts the whole law out of reach of being changed by referendum.

The one-parent consent rule has been in place for decades, disproving the claim of an emergency need to expand it. Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, exposed the radicals’ true motives when he recently told St. Louis Public Radio that the goal was to block the possibility of a voter override: “What we did in the bill is actually preempt that type of situation by putting an emergency clause in there. So there can’t be a referendum.”

That comment, which is included in the ACLU’s lawsuit seeking to get one of the measures onto the ballot, couldn’t be clearer: The emergency designation is a strategic lie put there to prevent a majority of Missouri voters from interfering with this Legislature’s war on women.