As Missouri lawmakers head back to the state capitol this week for a special session, there’s one thing at the top of their to-do list: Override Gov. Jay Nixon’s (D) recent veto of a harsh abortion restriction.
The legislation would effectively triple Missouri’s existing waiting period for abortion, forcing women to wait a full 72 hours before being allowed to proceed with the medical procedure. If approved, Missouri will join the ranks of Utah and South Dakota, the only two states in the nation that currently impose a three-day abortion waiting period.
In May, as the bill was moving through the GOP-controlled legislature, women’s health advocates launched a 72-hour filibuster to protest what they said was a condescending measure that assumes women aren’t capable of making their own decisions about their reproductive health care. They pointed out that the restriction will pose a significant hardship for the women who will be forced to make several trips to the abortion clinic — once to receive the mandatory “counseling” about the procedure, and again for the actual abortion three days later — which could require them to take multiple days off work.
The legislation also drew harsh criticism for failing to include an exception for victims of rape and incest, potentially forcing those women to deal with the additional emotional trauma of remaining pregnant for longer than they would prefer. When Nixon vetoed the proposed waiting period in July, he cited that reason for opposing the bill, calling it “insulting to women” and “callous” to victims of rape and incest. “It victimizes these women by prolonging their grief and their nightmare,” the governor said in a statement.
Nonetheless, Republican leaders think they have enough support for the bill to override Nixon, which requires a three-fourths majority in each chamber. Senate leaders told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch they’re confident they’ve got the necessary votes. And they’re not concerned about the lack of a rape exception; in fact, Rep. Kevin Elmer (R), who sponsored the bill in the House, told Mother Jones that he never considered adding such an exception because he believes life begins at conception.
“The bottom line is that a woman who is a victim of rape and incest needs to have time also to consider what is right for her. Many times victims of rape and incest are brought to the abortion clinic by the perpetrator and forced into an abortion very quickly,” Patty Skain, the executive director of Missouri Right to Life, told The Missourian.
Even though there’s just one abortion clinic left in the entire state of Missouri, lawmakers there have been particularly focused on restricting the procedure. This past year, the legislature considered more than 30 different anti-abortion bills.
It’s not unusual for Republican-dominated legislatures to exert their veto power for this purpose. Last year, in Arkansas, lawmakers overrode the governor to enact 12-week and 20-week abortion bans. In Michigan, lawmakers were recently able to implement a measure preventing women from using their insurance coverage to pay for abortion — widely derided as “rape insurance” because it also lacked an exception for rape victims — by collecting enough petition signatures to bypass the governor and trigger a vote on the controversial legislation.