Gathered around picnic benches outside of a local St. Louis brewery, the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL) partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to host a Pro-Choice Power Hour on Tuesday, July 9th. With the intention of organizing a referendum to repeal House Bill 126, Missouri’s eight week abortion ban, the ACLU hosted the event to recruit volunteers to collect over 100,000 signatures. The event featured Sarah Baker, the legislative and policy director from the ACLU.
In addition to expressing her disdain towards Missouri’s “heart beat” bill, Baker also ranted about Missouri’s so-called “trap laws” such as parental consent for minors seeking abortions, the requirement of having two abortionists present for the abortion, and the 72 hour waiting period already in place.
“You already have to sign paperwork that says you are killing another human being. It is insulting to get an abortion in Missouri. And do you want to know why it is insulting? It is because I am a person who has value. Because each of you has autonomy and personal liberty. And that is what the state is assaulting today,” Baker said.
House Bill 126 was signed by Governor Mike Parson on May 24th, and four days later the ACLU filed a referendum petition. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft rejected the application due to an emergency clause in the bill which was currently in effect. The emergency clause of House Bill 126 required for both parents to be notified of a minor’s abortion.
Accusing Ashcroft of “illegally asserted himself into the referendum” and “obstructing the people’s right to the referendum,” the ACLU sued Ashcroft and won on July 8th. The court ordered for Secretary Ashcroft to approve a sample petition within 15 days. Until a petition is approved by Secretary Ashcroft, the ACLU will not be able to collect signatures.
“Secretary Ashcroft could approve this ballot language tomorrow. Ashcroft could clear us for signatures tomorrow. But he is not going to do that because he is part of the race to ban abortion in Missouri,” Baker said.
With House Bill 126 not going into effect until August 28th, 2019, the ACLU must collect 5 percent of constituents within each congressional district that voted in the last gubernatorial election. This is approximately 117,000 signatures. In order to meet their goal, Baker expresses plans of attending major festivals as well as having designated areas for people to sign up.
“I would love to see people acting like Ireland. People flying home. That is the momentum we have here. We just have to channel it correctly. We need to give them the opportunity to stand up to say what they value,” Baker said.
However, with the bill’s passage by 110 votes in favor and 44 opposed in the Missouri State Senate, it is quite clear that the majority of constituents who participate in the electoral process value the dignity and rights of the preborn by voting for state senators who share their same values.
While Baker and the rest of the pro-abortion community may be preparing to fight for abortion, their efforts have not gone unnoticed. Students for Life Regional Coordinator Jacinta Florence attended the event, recognizing the need to rally the pro-life community to combat the referendum.
“I think that the other side is fighting hard and that they are strategic and just as passionate as we are. I think that we need to ban together more than ever in Missouri to be the first state to end abortion. Their efforts to overturn this bill are threatening to the well-being of the preborn in our state,” Florence said. “We need to fight this. We cannot afford to be silent. We need to use our voices and resources to stand up for life.”
By Elaine Mallon
Junior at University of Michigan and native of St. Louis