News Law and Policy

Missouri Legislature Overrides Governor’s Veto of Forced 72-Hour Waiting Period

Teddy Wilson

Late Wednesday night the Missouri legislature voted to override a veto by Gov. Jay Nixon (D) of legislation that will force women seeking to terminate a pregnancy to wait 72 hours until they can receive abortion care.

The Missouri legislature late Wednesday night voted to override a veto by Gov. Jay Nixon (D) of legislation that will force women seeking to terminate a pregnancy to wait 72 hours until they can receive abortion care.

“Today’s vote is just another example of our elected officials playing politics with the lives of women and their families,” Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement released after the vote. “Missourians have made it clear: They’ve had enough of extreme politicians interfering in personal, private medical decisions, and they don’t support this law.”

HB 1307 increases the minimum waiting period before a woman can have an abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours. The new law will also require the Department of Health and Senior Services to create a video that contains all of the information that must be provided to a woman considering an abortion by the physician who is to perform or induce the abortion.

After the law was initially passed by the Missouri legislature, Gov. Nixon vetoed the legislation and criticizing it for being “extreme and disrespectful.” Nixon specifically cited the lack of an exemption for victims of rape and incest, and the fact that the state already has a 24-hour waiting period law.

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“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,” said Nixon in a statement following his veto.

The state house, after an hour of debate Wednesday night, voted to override the veto by a margin of 117-44. The senate then debated the bill for two hours before lawmakers voted to override the veto by a 23-7 margin.

The debate was heated and emotional, according to reporting by the Columbia Missourian.

Democratic opponents argued that it interfered with a personal decision between a woman and her physician, while Republican supporters argued that women should be given every opportunity to reconsider having an abortion.

“You don’t stand up for communities where people are being murdered, but you do stand up for this. So if we value lives, let’s value all lives. I value the intelligence of women in this state to make the appropriate decision with their family, for their body,” Rep. Randy Dunn (D-Kansas City) said on the floor during the debate.

Rep. Kathie Conway (R-St. Charles) said during the debate that if a women gets “a couple of more days to think about this pregnancy, think about where it’s going, you may change your mind.”

Both opponents and supporters of the legislation gathered outside the capitol building. Resident Liz Read-Katz told the Associated Press that she terminated a pregnancy due to the fetus having a severe chromosomal defect. “Waiting 72 hours wouldn’t have changed my mind, but it most definitely would have caused more pain both mentally and physically,” Read-Katz said.

There is only one clinic in the state that provides abortion care, and state lawmakers have passed several pieces of legislation targeting that clinic.

Paula Gianino, president of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said in a statement following the veto that the clinic would continue to advocate on behalf of the women.

“The legislators who took extraordinary measures to force this bill into law are way out of step with the more than 70 percent of Missourians who wanted them to allow the veto to stand. While politicians may have abandoned the women of Missouri, Planned Parenthood never will. We will continue to do everything we can to fight for the women of Missouri who rely on us,” Gianino said.

Under Missouri law, women are already required to make two visits and an abortion provider wait at least 24 hours before having an abortion. The average distance a woman in the state travels for abortion care is nearly 100 miles to and from the state’s only abortion provider, according to Planned Parenthood. One in ten travel more than 300 miles for a safe and legal abortion.

Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said that the bill is further intrusion of politicians into Missourians’ personal lives.

“We all want women to have the information and support they need to make a carefully considered decision about a pregnancy—this law won’t do that,” McQuade said in a statement. “It will block access to safe, legal abortion and target women who already have the least access to medical care.”

The law will take effect 30 days after the vote to override the veto. Missouri joins just two other states with laws mandating a 72-hour waiting period before abortions: Utah and South Dakota.

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