JEFFERSON CITY • The Missouri Senate passed an extension of the required waiting period for women prior to an abortion early Tuesday after Democrats yielded the floor.
The measure passed 22-9 and triples the mandated time a woman must wait after receiving state-required information from 24 hours to 72 hours. Missouri is one of 26 states requiring a waiting period between counseling and the abortion procedure.
Supporters argue that the woman needs the additional time to fully consider her decision and digest the provided documents. Anti-abortion lobbyists have also said they believe it will reduce the number of abortions.
Sen. John Lamping, R-Ladue, compared the time taken in the decision to have an abortion to the state’s decision to use the death penalty. Lamping said the decision to end a life is an “extraordinary” one. He said it can take decades before a condemned murderer is executed.
“We as a society have decided that a mother has the right to end the life of her unborn child,” Lamping said. “My hope would be that, yes, this bill would reduce the number of abortions because the woman would come to realize in that 48 hours that yes, it’s a life she’s taking and decide not to do that.”
Opponents of extending the waiting period said it placed an “undue burden” on women and could make it especially difficult for women with low-incomes who have to make the trip to St. Louis and stay for three days. The only remaining abortion provider in Missouri is a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis.
“I don’t think it would make one difference in terms of stopping abortions,” said Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis. “Men always step up to the plate and introduce bills that attack women.”
While Senators discussed the bill, a group of abortion rights advocates gathered outside, sheltering from the rain and “filibustering” the bill. They had committed to stay from 2 p.m. on Monday until 72 hours had passed.
Pamela Meritt, communications director with Progress Missouri, said she hoped the commitment shown by the women participating in the filibuster would show lawmakers that Missourians did not want this restriction.
“I expect the Missouri Legislature to do the right thing. I expect them to focus on things that will make Missourians healthier,” Meritt said before the Senate vote.
The Senate filibuster lasted only about two hours. The Senate stood at ease for about 40 minutes while Senate Republicans conferred. After the Senate returned to debate, Democrats yielded the floor and the measure passed shortly after midnight.
Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton, said he believed the Republicans had enough votes to force debate to end on the measure and that there were many issues to be considered over the last four days of session. Sifton said he was convinced the longer waiting period would be ruled unconstitutional if challenged in court.
“I am also convinced that my pushing the issue further would be counterproductive on issues of a great deal of concern to my constituents,” Sifton said, singling out the issue of school transfers in particular.
Last week, the Senate voted down exemptions to the 72 hour waiting period for victims of rape and incest along party lines.
Utah and South Dakota are the only two other states in the country that require a 72 hour waiting period prior to an abortion. Utah waives the waiting period if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest – or if the patient is 15 or younger.
The South Dakota waiting period excludes weekends and holidays.
The measure must return to the Missouri House for another vote because the Senate version removed a provision requiring the state to create a video that women would have to watch prior to an abortion. The video would have to include all the information already given to women in written form.
The House passed that version of the bill 115-39.
(The bill is HB 1307.)