Governor Nixon, an outspoken proponent of abortion rights, has three options regarding this bill: sign it into law; veto the bill, which would give the General Assembly the opportunity in September to override the veto; ignore the bill, after which it will automatically become law even without his signature. Because the General Assembly has a veto-proof bi-partisan majority in both Houses on this issue, the governor is reluctant to veto a pro-life bill. Previous pro-life legislation which the governor chose to ignore and just allow to become law included legislation banning an abortion after twenty weeks, a ban on webcam abortions, and a measure last year that requires a doctor to be in the room for the initial dose of a drug used in medical abortions. The governor has also allowed legislation that increased funding for the Alternative to Abortions program and the retention of the tax credit for donations to crisis pregnancy centers. It is uncertain at this time as to what the governor will choose to do on this 72-hour waiting legislation, but he has voiced his opposition to the bill and has already threatened a veto.
Currently, twenty-six states have enacted some kind of a waiting requirement for abortions, ranging from a low of 18 hours to a high of 72 hours. Only two states—Utah and South Dakota—have a 72-hour waiting period. Missouri may become the third such state. Today, we have a 24-hour waiting period, but this bill seeks to extend that time to the proposed 72 hours.
Missouri’s informed consent law requires that a woman who goes to an abortion clinic must receive information concerning the development of her unborn child, including the opportunity to view an ultrasound and to be able to hear the heartbeat of her baby. She must also be given names and contact information for alternatives to abortion, including adoption. Furthermore, these women are to be provided with information concerning the nature and risks involved in the abortion procedure. It is critical for a woman to have adequate time to make her decision and to fully and carefully evaluate all her options and the information provided to her, as well as to understand the consequences not only to her but to her unborn child. These women are to be informed about government programs as well as private organizations that are able to assist her in carrying her child to full term, and they are informed of the biological fact that “the life of each human being begins at conception,” and that having an abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.
Supporters of this legislation believe it is vitally important for any woman considering an abortion to take the time to carefully evaluate all the information that is available. Sometimes a woman finds herself in situations where she is confused and under pressure from parents or a boyfriend to quickly “solve the problem.” The longer waiting period gives not only the women but other individuals involved time to more logically think through their options. The design of this bill is to insure that the choice of the woman is truly her decision and not one that she feels forced to make.
Opponents of this measure say it places an undue burden on women and makes it especially difficult for low-income women. They also claim that the longer wait for a woman seeking an abortion creates emotional stress and results in additional financial burdens, because in Missouri there is only one abortion clinic—Planned Parenthood in St. Louis—and women in other parts of our state must travel to and from that location or go to an out-of-state-clinic, such as Overland Park, Kansas, or Belleville, Illinois.
Society today has decided that a woman possesses the right to end the life of her unborn child. Before exercising this action, however, our state legislature wants to make sure that the mother has all available information accessible to her. We feel that each life is precious and that decisions being made to terminate a life are to be considered with the utmost seriousness.