The Missouri legislature began its 2014 session Wednesday, and anti-choice lawmakers have already set to work introducing legislation that would increase barriers to reproductive health care for women in the state.
State Sen. David Sater (R-Cassville) filed SB 519, which would increase the state’s current 24-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion to 72 hours. “We’re talking about just two more days, and it should just give maybe some more time for reflection on making the right decision,” Sater told the Kansas City Star.
But as Paula Gianino, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, told RH Reality Check, “women already give considerable thought to this most difficult decision.”
“Waiting periods have been studied for decades, and they don’t decrease abortion they just increase abortion later in pregnancy,” she said. “As a matter of public policy it’s really abhorrent to have politicians force women to have abortions later in pregnancy.”
A 2009 Guttmacher Institute report found that waiting periods have little or no impact on abortion rates, but may postpone the timing of some abortions. “Extended waiting periods are exceedingly onerous,” said Gianino. “Requiring longer wait time will only push women further along in their pregnancy. Any time you force women to have abortion later in pregnancy you are putting women at greater risk.”
In the state house, Rep. Ron Hicks (R-St. Charles County) filed HB 1148, which would make ultrasounds 24 hours prior to an abortion mandatory in the state; under current state law, ultrasounds must be offered but are not required. The bill includes an exemption for victims of rape or incests, but only if the victim has reported the crime to law enforcement. Hicks was a co-sponsor of an identical bill in the previous legislative session.
Gianino says that as the only clinic in Missouri that provides surgical abortion services, the Planned Parenthood in St. Louis sees patients from a large geographic region, and increasing waiting periods would lead to significant additional cost and create further burdens for women seeking reproductive health care. “Which, frankly, is the intent, I believe,” she said.
According to Gianino, one out of every five patients at the St. Louis clinic travels over 100 miles, and because the clinic offers mid-term abortion, the clinic sees patients from about nine states surrounding Missouri. “These forced delay laws create huge obstacles for women,” said Gianino. “They increase cost, time away from jobs, schools, and families. These laws are meant to create these burdens, while proponents like to disguise them as something different.”