Abortion-rights advocates are staging their own 72-hour "women's filibuster" on the steps of the Missouri Capitol this week, in protest of legislation that would triple the mandatory waiting time to get an abortion from 24 to 72 hours between clinic visits.
The bill passed the state Senate after late-night negotiations Monday. Senators began debating the legislation at 9:30 p.m., and Democrats inside the Capitol appeared ready to stage an early-morning filibuster, according to the Springfield News-Leader. But the lawmakers declined to do so following discussions among leadership on both sides.
The state Senate approved the legislation on a 22-9 party-line vote in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
The bill already passed in the Missouri House in March. It will now be sent back to the lower chamber for approval.
The Missouri legislative session ends at 6 p.m. Friday, and the bill will die if it is not passed by that time, barring extraordinary legislative action.
If the legislation passes, Missouri would join South Dakota and Utah as the only states with a three-day waiting period — the longest currently in effect. The state is one of 26 states that has a waiting-period requirement.
Opponents of the bill argue that the longer waiting period imposes an undue burden on women trying to get an abortion — particularly lower-income and rural women — because it forces them to make multiple trips to the clinic, or stay over several nights in a hotel. This is exacerbated by the lack of abortion providers in the state.
Only one clinic currently provides abortions in Missouri — a Planned Parenthood facility in St. Louis.
Supporters of the bill argue that the longer waiting time is necessary for women to fully consider their choice to get an abortion. Republican state Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger attracted attention earlier this year, when he not-so-delicately compared the decision to buying a car.
"There's lots of things I do going into a decision — whether that's a car, whether that's a house, whether that's any major decision that I make in my life. Even carpeting. You know, I was just considering getting carpeting in my house. That process probably took a month," he said at a hearing on the bill last month. "I wanted to be as informed as possible, and that's what this bill is, having them get as much information as possible."
The bill also includes a requirement that the Missouri health department create a video with the information contained in a 26-page informational booklet already provided, which women would be required to watch, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
More than 30 other antiabortion measures have been up for consideration in the Missouri Legislature this session. These include a bill to prevent state health plans from covering abortion, one that would require minors to obtain notarized parental consent for abortion, and one that would require a doctor to perform an ultrasound and review it with the woman seeking an abortion.
Advocates say the waiting-period bill has gotten the most momentum of the slew of restrictions that have been considered.
Participants have vowed to continue their "filibuster" day and night outside the Capitol, until Thursday at 2 p.m. Watch a live stream of the event here.