The Maneater

Column: SB 5 restricts women’s reproductive rights

The new law affecting abortion procedures and informed consent effectively places an undue burden on women.

Planned Parenthood on Providence Road provides reproductive health services to residents of Columbia and mid-Missouri. The rate of abortions in Missouri is lower than the national average. Maneater File Photo

Maddie Niblett is a freshman journalism major at MU. She is an opinions columnist who writes about politics for The Maneater.

The state of Missouri requires that, 72 hours prior to an abortion procedure, a woman seeking an abortion must go through an arduous process called “informed consent.” This includes being informed by a medical professional of every possible worst-case outcome of the procedure, as well as signing an official document acknowledging that she saw a diagram of the growth of a fetus at every two-week stage of development with a sign attached that reads, “The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being."

This entire process is designed to use guilt and shame to stop women from terminating unwanted pregnancies, and now a new law that went into effect Tuesday is making the process even more difficult. The law, SB 5, requires that the informed consent process be done by the same physician that performs the actual abortion operation, even though any licensed physician is perfectly capable of helping the patient through the informed consent paperwork. Because of the mandatory 72-hour waiting period in between the informed consent and the termination, this proves extraordinarily problematic. Not only do abortion physicians have to make time to take on this new workload, women who do not live in either St. Louis or Columbia must either make two commutes that are three days apart or find lodging for three days in one of these cities.

This restrictive law was passed in an attempt to slow the expansion of abortion services in Missouri. Columbia’s own Planned Parenthood began offering pregnancy termination services in September, and the organization plans to open clinics in Kansas City, Joplin and Springfield in the coming months. While this is good news for women’s reproductive rights and abortion availability, SB 5 attempts to curb access to abortions in Missouri by making the process as difficult as possible.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 13 percent of private workers have access to paid leave from their jobs. This means that most women, poor and low-income women in particular (who make up a disproportionate 75 percent of all women who seek abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute), will have to take unpaid leave for days on end in order to make not one, but two commutes to one of two cities in Missouri and have time to recover from the procedure.

This is about as close as any state in the U.S. has successfully come to imposing an “undue burden” on women seeking an abortion. Requiring that the same physician who performs the procedure administers the informed consent paperwork is wholly unnecessary and serves no purpose other than to make it that much more difficult for women to choose what happens to their own bodies.

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