David Humphreys

David Humphreys

Joplin businessman and frequent GOP donor David Humphreys has contributed $1 million to a newly created committee that aims to take Missouri's controversial abortion law to the voters.

The donation from Humphreys, who is president and CEO of TAMKO Building Products Inc., was received on Thursday by the Committee to Protect the Rights of Victims of Rape & Incest, according to documents filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

The documents show that the committee exists to support a referendum on the November 2020 ballot of House Bill 126, legislation that bans abortion in the state at eight weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. The bill, passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature, was signed into law recently by Republican Gov. Mike Parson.

In a statement from Ken Spain, a consultant for Humphreys, the Joplin businessman said: “We remain committed to pursuing a referendum on HB126 and are prepared to take the necessary steps, including available legal remedies, to ensure women and underage minors who are victims of rape and incest have a greater voice on this issue.”

Humphreys' $1 million donation visibly thrusts him into the political fight over abortion in Missouri, but he had spoken publicly against the new abortion law for several weeks.

"...I believe it was poorly thought out and passed without appropriate public debate," he said of House Bill 126 in a statement in late May. "A bill this restrictive, without the opportunity for exceptions for rape and incest, is bad public policy and bad for Missourians.

"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 a woman’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."

Efforts to get the abortion law on the ballot faced new challenges this week when Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft rejected two referendum petitions aimed at repealing the 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. Although the ban on abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy will take effect on Aug. 28, a section of the bill that changed parental consent laws for minors seeking abortions took effect as soon as it was signed into law.

Ashcroft said his office was still reviewing a third and slightly different referendum petition that was filed by attorney Lowell Pearson, who represents the Committee to Protect the Rights of Victims of Rape & Incest. Pearson said the committee's referendum petition does not seek to force a vote on provisions in the legislation that are already in effect.

Previous efforts

It's not the first time David Humphreys has publicly waded into the political arena, having previously been involved in the fight over right-to-work legislation a few years ago.

Missouri lawmakers in 2015 passed a right-to-work bill, which was vetoed by then-Gov. Jay Nixon. About 20 Republicans voted with Democrats later that year to sustain Nixon’s veto.

Humphreys donated heavily to unseat Republicans who voted to uphold the veto, including airing an ad during a Kansas City Royals game in 2016 that instructed people to go to a website that showed them how to decertify a union.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Emily Younker is the assistant metro editor at the Joplin Globe. Contact: eyounker AT joplinglobe DOT com.