Missouri Senate Passes 72-Hour Waiting Period Bill

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, following a filibuster led by Sen. Scott Sifton (D-St. Louis) that had stalled the legislature for only a few hours, the Missouri Senate passed a bill to extend the waiting period for a woman seeking an abortion from 24 to 72 hours.

Sponsored by Rep. Kevin Elmer (R-Nixa), HB 1307 passed with a 22-9 vote along partisan lines. The bill is just one of dozens introduced by Missouri Republicans this legislative session to restrict access to abortion or to further regulate the one clinic left in the state that provides abortion services.

After ending his filibuster, Sen. Sifton said he believes the bill eventually will be struck down as unconstitutional by the courts.

Sifton said the filibuster ended because there were many other issues the legislature needed to address in the last days of its session, “many of which are terribly important to my constituency,” said Sifton.

Outside the capitol building, reproductive rights advocates staged their own “Women’s Filibuster.” Advocates were set to speak for 72 hours in front of the legislature, matching efforts inside by lawmakers, hoping to prevent the measure from passing before the session ends on Friday. 

Activists used the hashtag #WomensFilibuster on Twitter, in hopes of duplicating the success of activists in Texas during Wendy Davis’ filibuster last summer. Despite the filibuster being broken and lawmakers passing the bill, activists continued speaking in front of the capitol throughout the night. At the time of publication, protesters were still speaking in front of the capitol building. 

Proponents of the legislation claim waiting period legislation is needed to ensure women understand the consequences of their decision to terminate a pregnancy. However, 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.” 

“Many of our patients come, not just from all over Missouri, but from states surrounding Missouri. Some women are traveling hundreds of miles to get here,” said Angie Postal, director of public policy at the organization.

In a statement released after the vote, Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, chastised lawmakers for invading women’s privacy and praised the reproductive rights activists gathered at the capitol. “Once again, legislators are interfering with a personal, private decision made by a woman with her family and her doctor,” said Dalven. “It’s time for all of us to take out our pink Wendy Davis sneakers and let our elected representatives know that we won’t stand by while they play politics with women’s health.”

The bill must now go back to the house, and lawmakers can either pass the senate version of the bill or call a conference committee to reconcile the differences in the bills. Then the bill will go to the governor for signature or veto. Sen. Jolie Justus (D-Kansas City) told the NPR affiliate in Columbia that Democrats are hoping Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, vetoes the legislation, even though the senate could override the veto.

Missouri would join Utah and South Dakota as the only states in the country that mandate women wait three days before receiving an abortion.

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