JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Missouri could become only the third state requiring women to wait 72 hours to have an abortion under legislation passed Wednesday night.
Following a tense debate, the state House voted 111-39 to send House Bill 1307 the abortion measure to Gov. Jay Nixon. Lawmakers ensured the passage of the legislation earlier this week when Senate Democrats cut a deal with Republicans to stop filibustering the bill in exchange for stopping other controversial bills.
The bill requires women to wait 72 hours between their initial appointment with the physician who will perform the abortion and the procedure itself. Missouri currently only has one clinic that performs abortions, located in St. Louis. That means a woman from Springfield, for example, wanting an abortion in Missouri would have to require spend at least three days in St. Louis or take two trips back and forth to the city.
If the measure becomes law, Missouri would join South Dakota and Utah as the only states with a 72-hour waiting period.
Republican Rep. Kevin Elmer sponsored the legislation and said that while opponents were defending the rights of the mother, he was defending the rights of the unborn.
Part of the debate focused on the lack of an exemption for rape and incest in the legislation. Elmer invoked God in defending the absence of an exemption.
"This is a tragic occurrence — rape, incest — and there's a pregnancy that occurs from it. And I would never say, oh, that's a great situation," Elmer said. "But this is what gets down to the heart of it. The crux of it is for me when does life begin, and how do you value it? For me, even though that tragic situation may occur, I still believe that God is at work in this world and that he'll let bad things happen and he doesn't cause it."
Elmer said that life's sanctity should be protected because of that "at all costs."
Democratic Rep. Gina Mitten said extending the waiting period makes it difficult for women, particularly poor women, to obtain an abortion. Missouri currently only has one clinic that performs abortions, located in St. Louis.
The bill requires women to wait 72 hours between their initial appointment with the physician who will perform the abortion and the procedure itself. With only one clinic in the state, a woman from Springfield, for example, wanting an abortion in Missouri would have to require spend at least three days in St. Louis or take two trips back and forth to the city.
Democratic Rep. Judy Morgan said women already consult with family, friends and religious leaders before making the decision about whether to have an abortion. She said women do not take the decision lightly.
"Those of us who oppose this bill believe it's designed to demean and shame a woman in an effort to change her mind and places unnecessary hurdles on her decision to end a pregnancy," Morgan said.
Whether Nixon will sign or veto the bill is unclear. The governor has previously allowed multiple abortion-related bills to become law, but he has also vetoed legislation that would have allowed businesses to not offer contraception insurance coverage for religious or moral reasons.
At a press conference this week, Nixon said he would make a decision consistent with his prior actions.
"I've had pretty consistent positions on this. I think everyone knows, obviously, which way I lean on it," Nixon said.
The bill passed with a veto-proof majority in the House, but the vote was 22-9 in the Senate, one vote short of the two-thirds support needed.
The legislation that passed Wednesday is simpler than versions of the bill that were considered earlier this year. One version of the bill would have required women to view a video of abortion-related information that they are currently must receive in print. That provision was removed.
Missouri would be only the third state in the nation to adopt a 72-hour waiting period. South Dakota passed a 72-hour wait period in 2011, though it went into effect in 2013. Utah passed its 72-hour bill in 2012, and it went into effect that year.