On Monday afternoon, reproductive rights advocates in Missouri kicked off a 72-hour “women’s filibuster” to stand up against their state legislature’s current attacks on abortion access. Lawmakers have considered more than 30 anti-choice bills this session alone, including a hotly contested measure that would triple the state’s current abortion waiting period and force women to wait a full three days before accessing reproductive health care. The length of the current filibuster is in direct response to that piece of legislation.
“It’s clear that many in the Missouri legislature have not heard what women in Missouri think about their obsession with attacking women’s health,” explains the website that is live streaming the protest. “So we are putting on our own 72-hour Women’s Filibuster on the steps of the Missouri Capitol. From Monday, May 12th at 2pm until Thursday, May 15th at 2pm, Missourians will make our voices heard on women’s health.”
If the 72-hour abortion waiting period passes, it will bring the state in line with South Dakota and Utah, the only two states in the nation that have enacted three-day waiting periods. Missouri already imposes a 24-hour wait on women seeking reproductive care, which is a popular tactic to dissuade women from having an abortion. In reality, however, these type of state laws don’t change women’s minds, since most of them are already confident about their decision to end a pregnancy.
“It may seem small to an outsider — increasing the wait by an extra 48 hours, what’s the big deal? — but it’s a slippery slope toward making abortion illegal altogether,” Liz Read Katz, one of the Missouri residents who will testify at the Women’s Filibuster, told ThinkProgress in an interview. “If it can happen in one state, it can happen in any state.”
Read Katz will share her own abortion story at the event. She and her husband were “ecstatic” when they found out they were going to have a baby — but genetic testing revealed that their unborn child had a chromosomal condition that is almost always fatal. They made the difficult decision to end the pregnancy because they decided they “could not in good consciences bring a child into this world that would only know pain and suffering.”
“At the time, I felt so alone. No one talks about terminations for medical reasons — it just doesn’t come up. Women feel so stigmatized and like they can’t talk about it because of the political atmosphere,” Read Katz explained. “I don’t want women to feel alone, and that’s why I share my story.”
For Read Katz, a 72-hour waiting period would have forced her to carry a doomed pregnancy even longer. She described that prospect as “heart-wrenching,” and plans on asking Missouri lawmakers to reconsider forcing that situation on other women.
In addition to the emotional toll, abortion waiting periods also result in substantial financial burdens for the women who choose to end a pregnancy. There’s only one abortion clinic left in the whole state of Missouri, so a three-day waiting period would force patients to figure out how to make that long trip several times, and potentially require them to spend even more money on transportation and lodging.
“It’s horrible for women,” Read Katz said.
Nonetheless, Missouri lawmakers have come under fire for characterizing the proposed waiting period as a necessary policy to allow women to seriously consider their decision to end a pregnancy. One GOP representative compared choosing an abortion to buying a car. “Even when I buy a new vehicle — this is my experience — I don’t go right in there and say, I want to buy that vehicle, and, you know, leave with it,” Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger (R) said during a debate over the legislation, suggesting that women shouldn’t be too hasty when having an abortion. One of his female colleagues called those comments “extremely offensive” and “demeaning to women.”