JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – This past week’s veto session for the Missouri General Assembly resulted in victory after victory for Republicans, especially in the case of abortion restrictions in the state.
The Missouri legislature originally passed House Bill 1307 which would require individuals to undergo a 72-hour waiting period between abortion consultations, tripling the original wait duration. Earlier this year, Governor Jay Nixon, who identifies as pro-choice, vetoed HB 1307 on grounds that there was no valid purpose for the time extension and would only create “emotional and financial hardships for women.” Gov. Nixon was also strongly dissuaded by the bill due to lack of consideration for rape and incest victims seeking abortions. In his official veto letter, Nixon went on to deem the bill as “wholly insensitive to women who find themselves in horrific circumstances…it victimizes these women by prolonging their grief and their nightmare.”
Debate for this issue was one of the most enthusiastic and involved – from both sides of the aisle – of the veto session, lasting nearly two hours.
Only two other states in the country uphold wait periods of similar length. South Dakota utilizes at 72-hour wait period and will even extend the time over weekends and holidays, whereas Utah also embraces a 72-hour wait period, but makes exceptions for victims of rape and incest.
“We have a duty to protect the lives of the unborn and to provide help to any woman who finds herself in such a desperate situation,” Dempsey said. “The extended waiting period called for in our bill would have afforded women struggling with difficult circumstances with time to access pregnancy resource centers and consider alternatives to abortion, such as adoption.”
Many opponents of HB 1307 believe the waiting period will substantially increase the difficulty in obtaining access to abortions altogether, especially those from lower-income communities and those traveling long distances to Missouri’s solitary abortion clinic in St. Louis.
Senator Jolie Justus gave Democrats hope in the form of a filibuster, but after extensive debate, the Republicans chose to move to the only previous question of the day and it passed through on a party line vote – overriding Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto. Party lines were slightly blurred in the House, with votes crossing.
The intention of waiting periods is to provide women the time to explore abortion alternatives, and ultimately overturn the individual decision for abortion as a solution.
Senator David Sater (R-Cassville) also shared his opinion on the importance of allowing time for individuals to truly consider their options.
“This is an irreversible and permanent decision, and taking the time to think about the consequences is not unreasonable,” said Sater.
House Bill 1132, another piece of legislature that had undergone the governor’s veto, is aimed to provide maximum funding for pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes and similar care centers — places that many believe provide women adequate support and information to make a more informed decision. HB 1132 was also overturned during the veto session.
Sen. Sater played a large role in getting pro-life organizations to voice their opinions at the Capitol prior to and during the veto session, and their rally was said by witnesses to be the loudest and most boisterous the Capitol has witnessed in recent years.
Several groups from both the pro-life and the pro-choice side protested at the Capitol during veto session. Missouri Right to Life hosted Speaker Tim Jones in press conferences around the state to urge the importance of overturning the vetoes in an effort to advance pro-life legislation in the weeks before veto session.
“These are common sense measures meant to protect life, and we will pass these measures into law over the Governor’s veto,” Speaker Jones said. “Missouri is a strong pro-child, pro-life state, and by overriding these bills we will show that protecting the sanctity of life is of the utmost importance to us.”
Kelsey Wingo is the multimedia reporter for The Missouri Times, and a senior at the University of Missouri. She will be graduating in Spring 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. Readers can contact Kelsey by calling her cell phone at 417-343-0508 or via Twitter @kels_wingo.