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Thursday, December 8, 2016

In a week when the federal government placed even more restrictions on women’s rights, there was a silver lining on the state level: Governor Jay Nixon (D-MO) vetoed an extreme abortion bill on Wednesday.

House Bill 1307 would have tripled the mandatory waiting period before an abortion to 72 hours, which would have given Missouri the longest waiting period in the country, along with Utah and South Dakota. Since the bill does not provide an exception for rape and incest, it also would make Missouri, along with South Dakota, the only states with such a long waiting period and no exceptions.

“This extreme and disrespectful measure would unnecessarily prolong the suffering of rape and incest victims and jeopardize the health and wellbeing of women,” Nixon said. “By failing to include an exception for rape and incest, House Bill 1307 demonstrates a callous disregard for women who find themselves in horrific circumstances and would make Missouri one of just two states in the nation to take such an extreme step. Lengthening the already extensive waiting period serves no demonstrable purpose other than to create emotional and financial hardships for women who have undoubtedly already spent considerable time wrestling with perhaps the most difficult decision they may ever have to make.”

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger (R), said in April that the bill was completely reasonable, and compared abortion to purchasing a new car.

“In making a decision to buy a car, I put research in there to find out what to do,” he said.

Missouri’s current abortion law is still pretty extreme. Women have to wait for 24 hours before they can have an abortion, which is already a serious restriction, especially on women who have to travel far and suffer financial duress in order to receive medical care. Missouri only has one abortion clinic, in St. Louis.

The current law also requires doctors to present their patients with materials explaining the possibility of an abortion causing pain to the fetus, and an image and ultrasound depicting the heartbeat of the fetus. Doctors also must provide women with materials that explicitly state that “the life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.”

The bill was pushed through Missouri’s GOP-controlled House and Senate, and is only one of more than 30 anti-abortion bills that have been proposed this year. Women’s rights advocates protested the bill for 72 straight hours in May, to no avail.

The legislature will decide whether to override the veto in September. According to News-Press Now, “they could have the numbers to do so.” An override would require more than two-thirds of the vote in both chambers; the bill passed the House with more than two-thirds of the vote, and the Senate was one vote short, with one Republican absent.

Missouri isn’t the only state attempting to make abortion even harder for women to access. In June, Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) signed a bill that could force three of Louisiana’s five abortion clinics to close. Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) signed a bill in June that would make abortion illegal for a woman if doctors determined that the fetus would be viable if born. New abortion laws also went into effect in Alabama and Mississippi on July 1.

In fact, more state abortion restrictions went into effect from 2011-2013 than in the last decade as a whole.

Photo: GovernorJayNixon via Flickr

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