Missouri Senate Passes 72-Hour Waiting Period for Abortions

May 13, 2014 at 10:00 am
click to enlarge The House has until 6 p.m. Friday to pass the extended waiting period for women seeking abortions. - Paul Sableman on Flickr
The House has until 6 p.m. Friday to pass the extended waiting period for women seeking abortions.

With only four days left in the legislative session, state senators took Missouri a step closer to tripling the mandated waiting period for women seeking abortions.

The Senate passed a bill 22-9 early Tuesday morning that would require a woman to wait 72 hours after seeing a doctor before she could terminate her pregnancy. Missouri already requires women to wait 24 hours, and only Utah and South Dakota require women to wait three days.

See also: Planned Parenthood: "40 Days For Life" Anti-Abortion Protesters Are Harassing Our Patients

Lawmakers have until 6 p.m. Friday to make the extended waiting period final. If the House doesn't take a vote by the weekend, they'll have to start over after the summer.

Women already jump through several hoops to obtain an abortion 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.

"I don't think it would make one difference in terms of stopping abortions," Senator Jamilah Nasheed tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Men always step up to the plate and introduce bills that attack women."

Bills targeting women's bodies have been a running theme of this year's legislative session, so much so that Representative Stacey Newman brought a knitted uterus to the floor during debates. In addition to longer waiting periods before abortions, the legislature has pushed bills to tighten requirements on mandatory ultrasounds, require dual parent consent for minors seeking abortions and to insulate pregnancy resource centers -- which often counsel pregnant women against abortion or leave the option out entirely -- from regulation.

See also: Not Even Stacey Newman's Knitted Uterus Can Halt MO Anti-Abortion Bills

As the Senate passed the bill in an early-morning session, abortion-rights advocates held a 72-hour vigil in protest.

"Missourians have been organizing for months against this dangerous and misguided agenda -- hundreds rallied last month at the Lobby Day for Women's Health, and thousands more have called and emailed their legislators," says Ryann Summerford, the statewide government affairs manager at Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri. "Now women and men from across the state are speaking out for women's health and safety on the steps of the capitol -- to ensure our voices are heard.

"Missourians agree that we are all are better off when personal medical decisions are left to a woman, her family, her faith and her doctor -- without interference from politicians."

Earlier this year, on the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in America, a University of Missouri student tried to illustrate how extended waiting periods affect women by waiting 72 hours to testify against it.

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

"I would like you to be able to trust in my opinions," Dina van der Zalm told the legislative committee. "Since this bill...makes the assumption that women are not capable of making difficult decisions without the aid of politicians requiring additional time -- an additional three days -- to really think it through, then I can only assume that you're not going to legitimately listen [to] or value the opinions I would like to state today."

Here's her testimony:

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