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Missouri State Law Already Requires a Woman Receive Counseling, Sign a Consent Form, and Wait At Least 24 Hours before Having an Abortion

Jefferson City — As women’s health advocates entered the final stretch of a 72-hour “Women’s Filibuster” protest, the Missouri state legislature tonight passed an extreme bill that would triple the state’s existing mandatory waiting period for a woman seeking a safe and legal abortion, despite the fact that at Planned Parenthood, Missouri women already receive support, counseling, and information and are required by law to wait at least 24 hours and make two health center visits before having an abortion. Planned Parenthood immediately called on Governor Jay Nixon to veto the legislation.

Under current state law, women must receive counseling information, sign a consent form stating that their decision to end a pregnancy is free and voluntary, and wait at least 24 hours to get an abortion. The bill on Governor Nixon’s desk would extend that waiting period to 72 hours.

This vote came after months of vocal opposition from Missourians across the state and as women’s health advocates continue to speak out on the steps of the Missouri Capitol for 72 hours in a “Women’s Filibuster,” which started Monday, May 12 at 2 p.m. and will last until 2 p.m. on Thursday, May 15. The debate over a similar bill last month sparked national outrage when a state legislator compared the decision to end a pregnancy to the decision to buy a car. Governor Nixon has 45 days to veto or sign the legislation; without his veto, the bill would take effect on August 28, 2014. [Watch a live stream of the Women’s Filibuster at: thewomensfilibuster.com and follow it on Twitter at #womensfilibuster.]

“We all want women to have the information and support they need to make a carefully considered decision about a pregnancy. Planned Parenthood provides every woman with counseling and information about all of her options. In Missouri, women already have to make a second appointment and come back at least 24 hours later if they decide to end a pregnancy,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund. 

“This bill is further intrusion of politicians into Missourians’ personal lives. Governor Nixon must veto this bill and stand firmly with a woman’s right to make her own private medical decisions, including the decision of whether to have an abortion, in consultation with her doctor,” Richards said.

Only Utah and South Dakota have enacted similarly extreme mandatory delays for abortion. Planned Parenthood operates the only health center that provides abortions in the state of Missouri, and said the bill on Governor Nixon’s desk would prevent or delay women’s access to abortion.

“Abortion is a deeply personal and often complex decision for a woman to make. Planned Parenthood sees firsthand how important it is for a woman to have accurate information about all her options and to have full support in making her decision, and every day we work to make sure women get that. This bill wouldn’t help women — it would block access to safe, legal abortion and make it more difficult for women to get the care they need,” said Paula Gianino, president and CEO of ADVOCATES the Political Arm of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.

The legislation would be particularly cruel for women and families in heartbreaking situations — needing to end a pregnancy after careful consideration, but experiencing lengthy, unnecessary delays in accessing safe care. “We went from having the kick of a baby and the joy of that to feeling the kick of a baby and bursting into tears,” explained Richard Kendall, of Utah, after he and his wife Chantelle learned at 19 weeks that their baby would not survive after it was born.  “Because of Utah’s 72-hour mandatory delay, I had to wait a week, being pregnant, feeling this baby kick.  It was such a nightmare.  There’s nothing that comes close to that kind of pain,” said Chantelle.  “This was a nightmare turned worse by 100 percent by laws that people had created that don’t make any sense to us…and that we had to follow,” Richard said.

The 72-hour mandatory delay headed to Governor Nixon’s desk is only one of more than 30 women’s health restrictions politicians in Missouri have introduced this session:

  • One bill awaiting final action in the Senate (House Bill 1430) could endanger the health of Missouri women by broadly allowing medical staff to refuse to provide health care and referrals to women.  If enacted, emergency room workers could, for example, ignore guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and the American Medical Association about treating victims of sexual assault and deny victims access to emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy from the assault.
  • Despite current state law requiring young women to obtain a parent's consent before an abortion, a bill that is poised to head to the full Senate (House Bill 1192) would require both parents to be notified. Parents rightfully want to be involved in their teenagers' lives, and the good news is that most teens do go to their parents when faced with an unintended pregnancy. But this misguided law could prevent a scared, pregnant teen who can’t tell both her parents from accessing professional medical care, especially those who may be victims of abuse.
  • Another proposed bill (House Bill 2206) poses a particular danger to women in abusive relationships by making it illegal for a doctor to provide an abortion without notarized permission from the woman’s partner.  Over two decades ago, the US Supreme Court held that spousal notification was unconstitutional, especially given the alarming prevalence of spousal abuse in this country.

"Politicians in Jefferson City have introduced more than 30 bills hostile to women’s health this session — and every step of the way, women and men in this state have been organizing to make it crystal clear that politicians should not be involved in a woman’s personal medical decision about her pregnancy,” said Ron Ellifrits, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. “Planned Parenthood’s supporters across the state are counting on Governor Nixon to push back against the legislature’s extreme and intrusive agenda to undermine women’s health, and we’ll continue to make our voices heard."

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