Missouri Senate passes abortion waiting period bill

Thursday, May 14, 2009 | 12:20 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Senate passed legislation that would increase the waiting period for a woman seeking an abortion.

Under the bill, women would have to talk to a health practitioner in person 24 hours before getting an abortion, be given informational pamphlets and videos and be offered the opportunity to see a live ultrasound and listen to the heartbeat.

Opponents of the legislation said that requiring a woman to talk to a health practitioner 24 hours before the abortion could be time-consuming and expensive for women who have to travel to get to one of the two abortion clinics in Missouri.

"We're going to create a situation where women who have to drive already from across the state because we've already put all the other ones out of business are going to now take two, three, four days off of work, away from their families, away from school, drive across the state," said Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Jackson County. "They may not have the money to do this but they're not going to have a choice. They're going to come in, and they're going to have two visits."

Justus introduced her argument by citing the number of substantive abortion bills that have been passed, 64 by her count. She argued that none has reduced the number of abortions.

Majority Floor Leader Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, said the bills have had an effect.

"Do you know how many abortion clinics there are in this state? And one of them is only open one day a week," said Engler, who added that it's no coincidence that the number of abortions has reduced as legislation has gotten stricter.

Bill sponsor Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, said the bill would help protect unborn children, but Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis County, said that extending the waiting period doesn't make the fetus or the woman any safer.

Justus said that because laws state that abortions cannot be performed on the same day that family planning or other services are offered, some women might have to wait even longer.

The bill will now go to the House for another vote, where it can choose to accept the Senate version or go to conference committee to settle the differences.

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