Conservative mega-donor David Humphreys emerged as an unlikely hero last week in his appeal for Gov. Mike Parson to veto the bill passed by the Legislature on May 17 imposing draconian restrictions on abortion. Parson signed it anyway Friday, setting the scene for a potential battle in the months ahead for the soul of Missouri’s Republican Party.
Humphreys made an open appeal for Republicans to err on the side of reason, moderation and compassion, especially for the victims of rape and incest who would be penalized by these new abortion restrictions. Parson, by signing House Bill 126 behind closed doors on Friday, has joined forces with the party’s social-conservative extremists.
Humphreys feels so strongly about HB 126’s overreach, he might fund a ballot initiative in 2020 to reverse it, a source close to him told the Post-Dispatch’s Kurt Erickson. “I am personally opposed to HB 126 and believe it was poorly thought out and passed without appropriate public debate,” Humphreys said in a statement. “A bill this restrictive, without the opportunity for exceptions for rape and incest, is bad public policy and bad for Missourians.”
Parson’s decision to sign the bill anyway deepens the party’s ideological split just as campaigns gear up for the 2020 election, in which the governor would be seeking his first full term after succeeding disgraced Gov. Eric Greitens in the job a year ago. He is not a political heavy hitter, and ostracizing someone like Humphreys could prove to be a serious strategic error.
Humphreys rarely takes overt public stands on major social issues, and for him to do so now indicates how strongly he feels about legislative overreach.
“I have never entered the public debate over abortion. Nor have I wanted to. Nor do I really want to now,” Humphreys stated. “It is a very difficult subject. And a very personal one with complicated moral issues for all involved. While I am personally opposed to abortion, I do support women’s right to choose particularly in the case of rape or incest. And I have to believe that the politicians in Jeff City that voted for this bill would themselves support their wives or daughters’ right to choose if their loved ones were raped.”
Our issue with Humphreys in the past has been that his generous donations to Republican candidates and causes unduly influences election results, skews democracy and dilutes the power of Missourians’ votes. Politicians, fearful of losing his support, too often blindly support his causes rather than voting their consciences.
That he’s conflicted reflects that Humphreys recognizes the nuances of this complicated subject — as should we all — and has determined that extremist solutions are not the answer. Humphreys offers hope that reasonable, moderate Republicans will step forward to take back their party.