Missouri General Assembly bills push abortion restrictions

Both bills would increase the abortion waiting period from 24 to 72 hours.
David Freyermuth / Graphic Designer

Abortion waiting periods could become among the longest in the country if recent Missouri General Assembly legislation goes through.

House Bill 1307 and Senate Bill 519 both seek to increase the mandatory waiting period for a woman to get an abortion from 24 to 72 hours.

HB1307 easily received House approval Monday, 115-39. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Twenty-five other states currently have abortion waiting periods, but only South Dakota and Utah have enacted a 72-hour period.

Rep. Kevin Elmer, R-Nixa, the sponsor of the House bill, declined to comment.

Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis, said she opposed the increased waiting period because it could make it more difficult for a woman to get an abortion.

“(The bill places) an immense burden; you’re asking a pregnant woman to wait an additional three days after she has already decided to have an abortion,” Newman said. “(The bill) is judging her, making her jump through additional hoops.”

Newman said there is no need to place an increased delay for an abortion.

“I think this legislation is completely sexist,” Newman said. “In my view, (the bill) is saying that a woman’s decision that she has made with her family and doctor is not credible and she cannot decide on her own without the state imposing an additional three-day waiting period.”

Rep. Keith Frederick, R-Rolla, a supporter of HB1307 and sponsor of a similar bill, House Bill 1313, said an increased waiting period for the abortion has two benefits.

The additional time, Frederick said, would allow a woman more time to review her decision.

“Some women, upon reflection, may want to carry out the pregnancy,” he said. “Such a decision that has impact on another human being should be allowed additional time to allow the woman to properly consider her decision.”

Frederick also cited research conducted by University of Pennsylvania law professor Jonathan Klick that says an additional waiting period could curb female suicide rates in Missouri.

“The suicide rate in our state is too high,” Frederick said. “There were 921 suicides in 2011, and about 22 percent of suicides have been women. The study found that the introduction of an abortion waiting period resulted in a 10-percent reduction in suicide in those states. … That’s convincing evidence to me that a waiting period allows a woman to come to a more settled decision.”

Junior Ellie Busch said she believes such a change would be harmful for women.

“It makes me very sad and also greatly worries me that Missouri is going down such an anti-women’s health path,” Busch said. “I oppose House Bill 1307 and all bills attempting to extend the waiting period because they infringe on a women’s rights to a safe and legal abortion by putting unnecessary restrictions on a medical procedure.”

SB519, the subject of Senate debate last week, seeks identical provisions as its counterpart in the House. Its sponsor, Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, could not be reached for comment.

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