Votes cross in abortion wait period legislative success
By Rachael Herndon Dunn on May 16, 2014
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Rep. Kevin Elmer, R-Nixa, sponsored HB1307 which passed in the late hours of Wednesday’s session. The bill changed the 24-hour wait period to 72-hours for those seeking to have an abortion performed.
Though the bill had “yes” votes from Democrats, the majority of Democrats were not supportive of the legislation. Perhaps one of the most outspoken during floor debate was Rep. Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis, who pushed for consideration of the abilities of those who are impoverished or victims of rape or incest.
“A poor woman from rural areas could consult a physician and have a procedure in two days with travel currently,” Mitten said. “That means two days of lost income and two days away from other children. That is a more than sufficient waiting period for those who believe a waiting period is beneficial.”
“I think that they are confusing the decision of the mother with the reality of the marketplace,” Elmer said. “Here in Missouri, the marketplace only has one clinic in St. Louis. That could change tomorrow. I don’t think that traveling to St. Louis is a prevailing error in [this bill].The fact is that the market could adjust to remedy that situation. The market can still adjust to remedy that situation.”
Elmer says that waiting periods are very beneficial, especially for women who view the situation in retrospect.
“I hope that the women that are past this critical point in their life – 5-10 years down the road – are more satisfied with the decisions that they’ve made than they might be under the current law,” Elmer said. “They’ve had more time to consider and, of course, the way that I feel about abortion rights is that it is a tough decision for any woman in that position and I’ve spoken with women who’ve made that decision and really regret that decision. Some have said, ‘If I had had a little bit more time, maybe I’ve kept that child.'”
“Seventy-two hour waiting periods mean either two trips, which increases travel expenses, or the potential for four days of lost income in addition to one round of travel,” Mitten said. “For women of means, it is still an issue, but for those who are living with low-paying jobs, many of whom are working two low-paying jobs, the extension is financially devastating. For poor women who are victims of rape or incest, this adds financial insult to their bodily and emotional injury.”
Not all Democrats agreed that 72 hours is too long.
“Seventy-two hours gives a person additional time to make that very important decision,” said Rep. Linda Black, D-Desloge. “The info given in the Missouri Informed Consent Packet is quite lengthy and detailed and has several informational help lines. This allows a woman additional time to make those phone calls, if necessary, and make this decision armed with the best information.”
“The fact that the body wasn’t given the ability to vote on an exception is a second assault to women who have already endured one,” Mitten said.
All but one Republican voted for the bill, but not because he isn’t pro-life.
“I’m adopted,” Rep. Chris Molendorp, R-Belton, said. “I don’t need any pro-life street cred. So, the question is: When are we pro-life enough?”
“If this contributes to another child having a chance at life and contribute to society, then I think that is a benefit for all of us,” Elmer concluded.
Rachael Herndon was the editor at The Missouri Times and also produced This Week in Missouri Politics, published Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosted the #MoLeg podcast. She joined The Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.