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GOP donor funds abortion referendum effort

A prominent donor to Republican causes has contributed $1 million to a newly formed political action committee aimed at overturning Missouri’s restrictive new abortion law.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that a filing with state campaign regulators shows David Humphreys of Joplin contributed to the Committee to Protect the Rights of Victims of Rape & Incest. Humphreys’ is the first known contribution to the PAC, and comes after he had said he would back a referendum asking voters to overturn the new law if Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed it.

Humphreys and his family are longtime conservative donors and contributed more than $14 million to Republicans during the 2016 election cycle.

Humphreys publicly urged Parson to veto the abortion bill, saying the lack of exceptions allowing for abortion in cases of rape and incest “is bad public policy and bad for Missourians.”

The new law bans abortions at eight weeks with exceptions only for medical emergencies. If Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, that ruling would trigger another provision in Missouri’s law outlawing nearly all abortions at any stage of pregnancy.

Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said last week that he rejected two referendum petitions aimed at repealing the sweeping abortion law — one backed by the ACLU of Missouri and the other backed by Humphreys. Ashcroft cited a provision in the Missouri Constitution that prohibits referendums on legislation that has already taken effect.

Most new laws in Missouri automatically take effect on Aug. 28 of each year, as the ban on abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy will.

The Republican-led Legislature, though, voted to make a section of the bill that changed parental consent laws for minors seeking abortions take effect as soon as Parson signed it into law.

Ashcroft, the state’s top election official, said that effectively blocked the two efforts to repeal the law through a public vote. He cited a provision in the constitution that prohibits referendums on “laws necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety.”

The ACLU is suing to overturn Ashcroft’s ruling, and Humphreys’ attorney says he will also.

Humphreys and the ACLU want the referendums to be approved so backers can 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 in 2020.