Missouri’s 72-Hour Abortion Waiting List

The law on abortion was further narrowed following an escalation in the number of abortion laws passed in the US since 2011.  This month it was Missouri’s turn to make additional contributions.

Women in Missouri seeking to terminate a pregnancy now face a waiting period of at least seventy-two hours. Women who are victims of rape are also included in this. This is triple the waiting period previously in place.

The state describes this as a period for ‘reflection’ and contemplation which is ultimately designed to deter women from continuing with the procedure. Democratic Representative Judy Morgan believes the bill is ‘designed to demean and shame a woman in an effort to change her mind.’

The idea of giving a woman time to think over her decision does seem particularly condescending when considered in cases of rape or incest which the bill neglects compassionate exception for. In these instances a wait of at least three days may seem inhumane and prolong the distress a victim is already embroiled within.

Since 2011, the US has passed 205 laws inflicting restrictions on legal abortions which has resulted in the closure of over 30 clinics across Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Mississippi.

In Missouri, this wait could be quite significantly prolonged beyond 72 hours with the existence of only one remaining legal abortion clinic in the 70,000 square mile state.

Planned Parenthood who occupy this clinic are said to be accepting of the bill despite filing an injunction against South Dakota in 2011 when the same waiting time was introduced there. However, the injunction was later dropped with the organisation citing that the argument would not have withstood the Court of Appeals who ‘ruled against women’s rights time after time.’

The clinic of St Louis, Missouri is currently overwhelmed, caring for women from all over the state. The client load then is further complicated by the recent introduction of mandatory counselling sessions and foetal scans in a bid to change a woman’s mind. This means that a minimum of two appointments are required.

Missouri also now strictly prohibits telemedicine to perform a medicine abortion. This immediately narrows the group of women who may find this often cross-state travelling feasible perhaps removing those from rural less affluent areas or those restricted by schooling or work commitments. Others may argue however, that if a woman feels an abortion truly necessary these barriers would be overcome.

Since the passing of the new reflection time it has also been suggested that Republican Representative Mike Moon will now move to close the St Louis clinic. Even if this is only speculation, it certainly suggests that the state is moving towards an overall eradication of legal abortion.

Narrowing a women’s options if they do become pregnant is narrowing a notion of freedom. As with victims of rape, their trauma should not and need not be prolonged.  Exceptions to law can be necessary.  This is the case in Utah who pardon the 72 hour wait for such victims. Further, the continually diminishing access to legal abortion clinics particularly in more southern states such as Missouri raises health fears for those that may feel compelled to seek an abortion illegally.

It feels necessary to point out that at the same time these bills were passed, an accompanying bill was introduced.  This allowed teachers to bring guns to schools and Missouri residents to carry concealed firearms in public.  It looks like the ‘Show-Me’ state’s priorities are in serious need of revision.

[Emma Rodgers – @_emmmmrodgers]

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