Missouri enacts 72-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion

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Next month, women in Missouri will need to wait 72 hours after consulting with a doctor to have an abortion.


Lawmakers in the conservative state successfully overrode a veto by Democratic Governor Jay Nixon to enact legislation that mandates a three-day "reflection period."

The law, set to take effect in October, will offer no exceptions for women who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest, making it one of the strictest in the nation.


South Dakota, the only other state with such a law, does not include holidays and weekends in its waiting period, meaning some women must wait longer before they are allowed to have an abortion. Utah has a similar 72-hour waiting period but makes exceptions for rape and incest.

Advocates of the new waiting period say they hope it will offer women more time to change their minds and continue their pregnancies.

But critics say the law is intended to make it more difficult for women to get abortions and describe the required wait as insulting. .

Liz Read Katz of Columbia, Missouri, ended a pregnancy in 2011 after tests revealed the baby she was carrying had severe abnormalities that were "incompatible with life."


After speaking with her husband, family, rabbi and doctor, she decided to have an abortion.

"Putting an additional 72-hour wait restriction on a woman is not going to help her solve the problems she has," Read Katz said at a rally against the law in May. "This 72-hour wait isn't about trying to alleviate future regret. This 72-hour wait is the bill sponsors' hope that they can make it such a burden to get an abortion that a woman won't take the time to do it.”


The law requires doctors to tell women about the medical risks associated with abortions - medical experts say there are few - and offer them alternatives, such as adoption, and an ultrasound.

Missouri has just one abortion-providing clinic, operated by Planned Parenthood. According to the organization, women in the state travel an average of 100 miles to receive an abortion, and one in 10 travel more than 300 miles. Planned Parenthood cautions the added waiting period will add costs, such as hotel rooms and gas, that could prevent some women from accessing a service they want.


Planned Parenthood has not said yet whether it will attempt to have the law reversed in court.

Missouri is not the only state to recently enact abortion restrictions. Since 2011, more than 30 clinics have closed in Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Mississippi.


The tighter abortion restrictions are part of a trend that has roots in the 2010 election cycle, when conservative, anti-abortion Tea Party candidates were elected to state legislatures across the country, said Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortion laws.

"This is an ongoing trend and not one that will disappear in the foreseeable future," Nash said. "That's especially disturbing because not only are we talking limited abortion rights, but the states enacting them are not doing anything to reduce the need for abortions, like investing in family-planning and sex education. It's all about restricting access, not reducing need."


Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.

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