JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. ( -- Gov. Mike Parson believes that the people have the right to put the issue of abortion up to a referendum if they so desire. 

"If (the people) want to go through the initiative petition process, for a referendum, they have the right to do that," he said.

On whether it would pass, Parson is unsure. "Oh, I don't know about that," he said. "It's still a pretty divided issue in the state of Missouri... and that's just the way it's perceived... I don't know which (side) would win."

He did say that Planned Parenthood could "open tomorrow if they meet the demands of the state."

An appellate court panel ruled last Monday that the American Civil Liberties Union can soon begin collecting signatures that would put a new Missouri law banning abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy to a public vote.

READ: ACLU effort to put abortion ban to vote can proceed, will need to collect 100,000 signatures

A three-judge panel of the state's Court of Appeals found that GOP Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft was "without authority" to reject petitions on constitutional grounds. The 31-page ruling was issued just hours after the panel heard oral arguments in the case.

ACLU of Missouri acting executive director Tony Rothert had argued that time was of the essence. Most of the new law, including the eight-week abortion ban, takes effect Aug. 28. The ACLU needs to collect more than 100,000 signatures by then to put the law on hold until a public vote in 2020. Rothert had argued that the signature gathering should begin by July 18; the court gave Ashcroft about two weeks to approve the sample petition for circulation.

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