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Cole County judge dismisses abortion lawsuits

Both had challenged decision on petitions

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - A Cole County judge has dismissed two court cases challenging the rejection of two referendums that seek to overturn a new abortion law.

Judge Daniel Green on Thursday dismissed a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and on Friday a case brought by wealthy businessman and Republican donor David Humphreys. Both lawsuits had challenged Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft's decision to reject two petitions to put the state's restrictive new abortion law on the ballot.

The law would ban abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy and has met heavy resistance.

Ashcroft rejected the petitions last week, prompting the lawsuits. He also rejected a third petition a few days later. 

Acting Executive Director Tony Rothert on Thursday said the state ACLU has already appealed and expects the issue will ultimately play out in the Missouri Supreme Court.

"We all know it's going to be decided by a higher court," Rothert said. "So this is a step toward that."

A spokeswoman for the Committee to Protect the Rights of Victims of Rape and Incest, which Humphreys is bankrolling , said the group is "reviewing all options to ensure Missouri's abortion law is put to a vote of the people."

"We are committed to protecting the rights of women and underage minors who are victims of rape and incest, and we are disappointed the court did not do so," committee spokeswoman Mary Jenkins said in a statement.

A spokesman for Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, whose office represents Ashcroft in the lawsuit, declined to comment.

Humphreys and the ACLU are seeking to put the abortion law to a public vote in hopes of repealing it. Humphreys has cited the lack of exceptions for rape and incest in his opposition to the policy, which does include exceptions for medical emergencies.

Ashcroft rejected petitions by Humphreys and the ACLU to put the law on the 2020 ballot, citing a provision in the Missouri Constitution that prohibits referendums on "laws necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety."

A majority of the law, including the eight-week abortion ban, takes effect Aug. 28. But a provision that changed the rules on minors receiving abortions was enacted as soon as Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed the bill in May.

The new law requires a parent or guardian giving written consent for a minor to get an abortion to first notify the other custodial parent, with exceptions.

The law's "emergency clause" states that enacting the parental-consent portion is vital "because of the need to protect the health and safety of women and their children, both unborn and born."

Humphreys and the ACLU sued when Ashcroft rejected their referendum petitions .

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