The Missouri legislature approved a measure on Wednesday night that would triple the state’s current waiting period for women seeking to end a pregnancy. If Gov. Jay Nixon (D) signs it, Missouri will join Utah and South Dakota, the only two states in the nation that currently impose a 72-hour abortion waiting period.
Lawmakers voted to approve the bill in the midst of a “women’s filibuster,” a protest that reproductive rights activists are staging for exactly three days in direct response to the proposed waiting period. That protest kicked off on Monday afternoon, and women have continued speaking since then in an attempt to implore their legislators — who have considered more than 30 anti-choice bills so far this year — to stop attacking abortion rights.
Nonetheless, the GOP-controlled legislature ignored those activists. The state Senate approved the 72-hour waiting period on Monday evening, and the House followed suit just two days later. Now, women’s health advocates are turning their attention toward pressuring Gov. Nixon to reject the legislation.
“This bill is further intrusion of politicians into Missourians’ personal lives,” Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, noted. “Governor Nixon must veto this bill and stand firmly with a woman’s right to make her own private medical decisions, including the decision of whether to have an abortion, in consultation with her doctor.”
Nixon has a mixed record on abortion legislation, and it’s not yet clear where he will come down on this particular measure.
Missouri lawmakers have characterized the proposed waiting period as a necessary policy to give women more time to seriously consider their decision to end a pregnancy. In a debate over the bill last month, 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. Those comments provoked considerable backlash, including from Gatschenberger’s female colleagues, who called the comparison “extremely offensive” and “demeaning to women.”
In reality, research has proven that legislative barriers to abortion services, like mandatory waiting periods or required counseling laws, don’t actually change women’s minds about whether to end a pregnancy. Nearly 90 percent of women are already “highly confident” about their choice to have an abortion before they approach a doctor. And women who choose abortion overwhelmingly say it was the right choice for them.
“Those of us who oppose this bill believe it’s designed to demean and shame a woman in an effort to change her mind and places unnecessary hurdles on her decision to end a pregnancy,” Missouri Rep. Judy Morgan (D) explained before Wednesday’s vote on the legislation.
Particularly because Missouri only has one abortion clinic left, a three-day waiting period would pose a significant burden on women who have to travel to that clinic — which is located in St. Louis — from another part of the state. They would either need to pay more money for lodging for several days, or make two long trips back and forth. There’s also a possibility that women will opt to cross the border to Illinois to access services in a shorter time frame. If that becomes the norm, Missouri could effectively become an “abortion free state,” handing anti-choice activists a significant symbolic victory.
Missouri, which has one of the worst rates of gun crime in the nation, does not impose a waiting period for purchasing firearms. That falls in line with other states’ priorities, too. Across the country, there are more waiting periods to have an abortion than there are to get a gun.