The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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May 13, 2014

Missouri Senate approves 72-hour waiting period before abortions

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Senate early Tuesday morning approved a 72-hour waiting period before a woman can obtain an abortion after seeing a doctor.

The state’s current waiting period is 24 hours.

Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon stopped short of saying what he will do when the bill reaches him. He could sign the bill, veto it, or let it go into effect without his signature, as allowed by the Missouri Constitution. The latter is what he has done with several abortion bills sent to him in the past.

But last year, Nixon also vetoed a bill that would have provided employers a religious exemption to opt out of covering certain types of contraception in their insurance policies.

If it becomes law, Missouri would join South Dakota and Utah in becoming the third state with a 72-hour waiting period.

Republicans said the legislation was part of an effort to reduce abortions in Missouri, and they have argued that one day is too short for a woman to consider all the relevant medical information.

Democrats said the bill was another attempt to limit women’s access to health care and would make what they said was a private medical decision even more painful for many women.

Despite their opposition, Democrats ceased their filibuster shortly after midnight following hours of extended debate about the bill as part of an agreement that would impact other legislation.

“This bill has seen more debate than any other bill we’ve taken up this year,” said state Sen. Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis.

He also said if Republicans had used a rare procedural maneuver titled “Previous Question,” which would allow them to trump the filibuster and move forward with a vote — as Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, R.-Joplin, had openly threatened — it could have soured relations between lawmakers and derailed the chamber’s other priorities, including passing legislation to address the school transfer crisis facing St. Louis.

“We are at a point in our session where there are many other issues to be taken up in the next few days, many of which are terribly important to my constituency,” Sifton said.

In exchange for ending the filibuster, Senate Republicans agreed to not bring up two other pieces of legislation opposed by Democrats this year — a constitutional amendment authorizing a photo ID requirement for elections and a measure known as “paycheck protection” affecting union fees for public employees.

State Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, carried the bill extending the waiting period in the Senate. He argued that the bill would not limit a woman’s access to abortion. Rather, he said it would allow them extra time to consider whether they want to move forward with the procedure. During the waiting period, women are provided information about the immediate and long-term medical risks, as well as alternatives to an abortion. They also are given an opportunity to view an ultrasound and to hear the heartbeat of the fetus.

The Republican-led Senate endorsed the legislation 22-9.

“I appreciate all the talk and the debate over a long period of time. I did not file this bill because of any political purpose or motive,” Sater said. “I filed it for the unborn children.”

The bill now heads back to the House, where lawmakers are expected to give final approval before the end of the session at 6 p.m. Friday. The House had passed an earlier version of the bill in March.

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