Missouri is About to Pass Just Passed One of America's Strictest Limits on Abortion

Sep 8, 2014 at 6:00 am
click to enlarge GOP lawmakers are ready to override Governor Jay Nixon's veto on abortion.
GOP lawmakers are ready to override Governor Jay Nixon's veto on abortion.

The Missouri Legislature's Republicans want to make it even harder for women, including victims of rape and incest, to access abortions, and this week, they'll have the chance to do it.

Update: The bill passed with a 117-44 vote in the House and a 23-7 vote in the Senate around 11:30 p.m. on September 10. End of update.

At the tail-end of the last legislative session, GOP lawmakers passed a bill tripling the mandated waiting period for women seeking abortions to three days from one day. That would make Missouri's waiting period the longest in America, tied with Utah and South Dakota.

The bill makes no exception for victims of violent sexual crimes -- one of the reasons why Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed the bill in July.

See also: 72 Hours Later: How a Mizzou Student Turned Waiting into an Abortion Rights Protest

"By failing to include an exception for rape and incest, House Bill 1307 demonstrates a callous disregard for women who find themselves in horrific circumstances and would make Missouri one of just two states in the nation to take such an extreme step," Nixon said when he vetoed, referring to Utah, which has a three-day waiting period but makes an exception for rape and incest victims.

"Lengthening the already extensive waiting period serves no demonstrable purpose other than to create emotional and financial hardships for women who have undoubtedly already spent considerable time wrestling with perhaps the most difficult decision they may ever have to make," Nixon continued.

But even as Nixon signed his name on the veto, an override seemed inevitable since the GOP, deaf to criticisms that the law doesn't protect rape and incest victims, knows has the votes it needs. The House passed the bill 111-39, two more votes than the 109 needed for an override. The Senate was one vote short of the 23 needed for an override, but one Republican senator, who has said he supports the bill, was missing from that vote.

"[Abortion] is an irreversible and permanent decision, and taking the time to think about the consequences is not unreasonable or a burden," says Republican senator David Sater, who vowed to fight the governor's veto. "I firmly believe that most Missourians do not think three days is too much time to decide whether to bring a child into this world."

See also: Missouri Senate Passes 72-Hour Waiting Period for Abortions

Women already jump through several hoops to access abortion services in Missouri, where the only legal clinic is a Planned Parenthood in St. Louis' Central West End. State law requires women to receive counseling information, sign a consent form declaring their decision to end the pregnancy is free and voluntary, and wait 24 hours.

Planned Parenthood and other abortion-rights advocates say waiting periods only force women to go further into unwanted pregnancies, increasing the risk of unnecessary complications. Longer waiting periods also make getting an abortion more complicated for women who have to take time off work or arrange childcare to travel to Missouri's only abortion clinic.

Missouri lawmakers will vote on this veto override, as well as possible overrides on bills about guns, school transfers and more, at a special session this week.

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at [email protected].