Missouri Is Approaching a ‘Wendy Davis’ Moment in Abortion Battle

An independent group of women is continuing a 72-hour “filibuster” to protest antiabortion legislation passed in the state Senate early Tuesday morning.

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 11: Women hold up signs during a women's pro-choice rally on Capitol Hill, July 11, 2013 in Washington, DC. The rally was hosted by Planned Parenthood Federation of America to urge Congress against passing any legislation to limit access to safe and legal abortion. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
National Journal
Sophie Novack
May 12, 2014, 2:56 p.m.

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.

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