Missouri’s legislative session kicked off less than three weeks ago, but state lawmakers aren’t wasting any time when it comes to launching new attacks on women’s health. They’ve already introduced 15 different anti-abortion measures — and are currently working to extend the state’s mandatory waiting period to 72 hours, requiring women to wait at least three days before they may proceed with an abortion. That would bring Missouri in line with South Dakota and Utah, the only two states that have imposed three-day waiting periods.
“This harmful bill would triple the current waiting period for women accessing safe, legal medical care in Missouri,” Ryann Summerford, the statewide manager of government affairs for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Missouri, told ThinkProgress in a statement. “This bill is designed to demean and shame a woman in an effort to try to make her change her mind.”
Nonetheless, the legislature seems eager to advance it. Last Wednesday, which also happened to be the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a Missouri House committee held a hearing on the proposed 72-hour waiting period. This Monday, a Senate committee will take up its own version of the legislation.
But pro-choice activists in Missouri — which already has extremely limited reproductive health resources, since there’s just one abortion clinic left in the entire state — are fighting back. Dina Van Der Zalm, a student at the University of Missouri who’s getting her masters in social work, told last week’s House panel that she planned to delay her testimony against the bill for 72 hours. She explained that she didn’t actually need the extra time to make up her mind, but she hoped her lawmakers would take her more seriously after she adhered to their suggested waiting period.
“Since this bill…makes the assumption that women are not capable of making difficult decisions without the aid of politicians requiring an additional three days to think it through, then I can only assume that you’re not going to legitimately listen or value the opinions that I would like to state today,” Van Der Zalm said in her testimony. “Therefore, I’d like to take your recommended waiting period and return on Monday, when I’ve had time to really think through my decisions…I would like for you to be able to trust in my opinions.”
Watch it, courtesy of Progress Missouri:
Along those lines, activists started the #wait72hours hashtag to drum up opposition to the extended waiting period.
Van Der Zalm will file an official second testimony on Monday, after waiting the designated three-day period. She’s also planning to testify against the Senate’s version of the 72-hour waiting period bill in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In an interview with ThinkProgress, she explained that she was inspired to get more involved because she believes this type of abortion restrictions sets a dangerous precedent.
“One of my major concerns about this legislation specifically is that it seems like the beginning of a slippery slope,” Van Der Zalm said. “Clearly lawmakers weren’t satisfied with 24 hours. So if they make it 72 hours this year, they might make it five days next year, they might make it a week, they might make it a month. There’s nothing to really stop them once they begin chipping away at our rights.”
Mandatory waiting periods are a popular anti-choice tactic ultimately designed to encourage women to reconsider having an abortion. But research has confirmed that these type of state laws don’t actually change women’s minds, since nearly 90 percent of them are “highly confident” about their choice to end a pregnancy before ever approaching a doctor. In reality, waiting periods simply cause serious emotional and financial hardships for women. This policy often forces women to make multiple trips to a clinic, incurring additional costs for transportation and lodging, and ultimately denies them the right to end a pregnancy as quickly as they would otherwise choose to do so.
“There’s no reason to do this other than to make it more difficult for women to exercise their legal right to have an abortion,” Van Der Zalm pointed out. “It’s making something impossible since they can’t make it illegal.”