JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Critics of a new Missouri law that bans abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy said they won’t make a push to gather the signatures needed to block it pending a public vote, meaning it’s on course to take effect at the end of the month.
Opponents of the law sought a referendum in the hopes that voters would overturn it. But with only two weeks to gather the more than 100,000 voter signatures required to put it on the 2020 ballot, an American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri official said there’s simply not enough time.
“Our push now is to register voters for the 2020 election,” ACLU of Missouri Development Director Nicole Rainey said in a Thursday email. “Like I said — it is impossible to collect signatures within this timeframe.”
That means the law is on course to kick in Aug. 28.
The law will ban abortions at or after eight weeks of pregnancy. It includes exceptions for medical emergencies, but not for rape or incest. Doctors who violate the eight-week cutoff could face five to 15 years in prison. Women who terminate their pregnancies cannot be prosecuted.
There’s still a chance the law could be blocked before then.
The ACLU and Planned Parenthood sued Missouri, claiming the ban is unconstitutional. A hearing is set for Aug. 26.
Critics of the law have accused Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft of dragging his feet to process the petition.
Robin Utz, treasurer of the No Bans On Choice political committee, in a Wednesday statement said Ashcroft “ran out the clock and blocked the people’s right to a citizen veto.”
But Ashcroft spokeswoman Maura Browning on Wednesday said the office met legal deadlines and certified the petition five days early.
“This referendum has followed the same process we use for every initiative petition and referendum, and has taken an amount of time comparable to any other petition or referendum,” Browning said in a statement.
She said critics of the law could have sped up the process by filing the petition earlier, before Gov. Mike Parson signed it.
“The ACLU could have filed the referendum as soon as the bill was passed by both houses of the legislature,” Browning said. “Instead, they waited 11 days. If they had filed during that time period, before the bill was signed into law, it likely would not have been rejected by our office.”
Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia also have approved bans on abortions once fetal cardiac activity can be detected, which can occur in about the sixth week of pregnancy. Some of those laws already have been challenged in court, and similar restrictions in North Dakota and Iowa have been struck down by judges.
Missouri already has some of the nation’s most restrictive abortion regulations, including a requirement that doctors performing abortions have partnerships with nearby hospitals. Missouri is down to one clinic performing abortions, which is in St. Louis.
After approving the creation of the St. Joseph Land Bank earlier this week, city officials now are looking into the members who will make up the group.
The seven-member land bank will include five people nominated by Mayor Bill McMurray and approved by the City Council, one selected by Buchanan County officials and one selected by the St. Joseph School District.
McMurray has nominated five people who have worked with local properties or are involved in local businesses:
Tara Horn — County auditor and Realtor
Frank Leone — Realtor
James Robinson — Chairman of the Board for Nodaway Valley Bank
Steve Briggs — Attorney
David Bradley — CEO of News-Press and Gazette Co.
County officials have nominated Terry McClatchey, and the school district selected its CFO, Gabe Edgar.
McMurray said his choices were taken from a list of 30 to 40 local people who were interested in serving.
“(They were chosen) because of their business experience and also because of their various backgrounds in different disciplines that would relate to operating a land bank,” McMurray said. “These are all people that have a lot of business experience in this area”
After the council meeting on Monday, McMurray said that some of the people who were not chosen to serve the land bank will be placed on an advisory committee that will work with the group and the council.
“We’re going to have the land bank, it’s going to be a separate political subdivision, a separate entity, but then we’re also going to have a committee appointed to advise the land bank, to advise the council,” McMurray said. “Some of the people who were so interested in it, we’ll select some of those to be on the advisory committee so they can at least have a part in it.”
That committee will be made up of nine members, each nominated by a council member.
The council is scheduled to vote on the five nominations to the land bank at its Monday, Aug. 26, meeting.
The land bank cannot officially go into effect until Wednesday, Aug. 28, due to state law.
As students around St. Joseph headed back to school Thursday, one group marked the day with a special celebration.
Around 6:40 a.m., an hour before the first day of classes was to begin, several Central High School seniors gathered in front of the building. They brought with them bean bags, cornhole boards, ladder golf and several other lawn games, all in an attempt to gather their fellow seniors together to celebrate their final year.
The event, titled Senior Sunrise, was put on by Central’s student government, and drew a crowd of more than 100 students who took photos in front of a backdrop and listened to music playing over a speaker wheeled out by a few teachers.
“We’re just trying to get the seniors excited for their last first day of school and try to start it off right by coming in a little early and meeting up with people you haven’t seen all summer,” Student Body President Cruz Becerra said.
With just under 400 seniors graduating this year, Becerra included, Jacob Kimble, a history teacher and co-student-government sponsor at Central High School, said events like this really help students bond and catch up prior to their first day.
“We wanted to create a situation where the first day of school isn’t, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to come back to school,’ but more like, ‘All right! I want to be here and this is fun.’ We just want to create that positive environment,” Kimble said.
In its second year, Senior Sunrise as an event hasn’t been around for too long, though Becerra hopes it turns into a tradition for future students down the road.
“I’ve been in this district for all of my years in education, so it’s kind of crazy that it’s all starting to come to an end. I’m starting to realize that, and it’s kind of sad because I love this place and I love these people,” Becerra said. “I’m not quite ready for it to end, but it’s a good thing I’ve got a whole year ahead of me.”
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The last day of Chiefs training camp also was Military Appreciation Day at Missouri Western State University.
But within the military branches there are rivalries that don’t disappear just because Patrick Mahomes II is throwing the football.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jonathan Lofgren is originally from Nebraska, although he played football at Emporia State University in Kansas. He remains a die-hard football fan and thinks the key to the Chiefs’ success will be how well the team plays on defense.
“It’ll be an exciting year, though. A real exciting year,” he said.
Lofgren returned from his fifth tour abroad in March. His battalion was stationed in Kuwait.
During camp he was sharing his operational knowledge of the M2A3 Bradley, a reconnaissance and troop transport vehicle.
“Our main job as a reconnaissance platoon is to go forward ahead of our company lines and basically just look at stuff,” Lofgren said. “We can effectively engage three targets within 10 seconds and destroy them.”
Rick Seiter is a U.S. Navy veteran of 30 years. He spent time as an engineer and retired as a master chief. He said many who serve in the Navy call the Bradley just one of the Army’s many “play toys.”
“If it wasn’t for the Navy, these other guys could never get to the battle,” Seiter said. “We’ve got the big guns.”
Seiter served on the USS Missouri during the first Gulf War, codenamed Operation Desert Shield, and remembers firing some of the first Tomahawk Missiles during an engagement in January of 1991.
He has attended Military Appreciation Day at Chiefs training camp the past few years, although he’s been a fan for longer than that. He has multiple Chiefs jerseys, including those of Travis Kelce and Joe Montana.
When he was stationed in Hawaii he said he was lucky enough to have a chance meeting with Derrick Thomas, who was there to play in an AFC–NFC Pro Bowl game.
“We were just having a little cookout out there, you know, and he came out and we gave him a beer and he had a hot dog and he was just one of the guys,” Seiter said. “We didn’t even ask him to sign anything. I’m sure he would have.”