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Missouri bill would extend waiting period for abortion

Sunday, December 29, 2013 | 2:56 p.m. CST; updated 3:06 p.m. CST, Sunday, December 29, 2013

JEFFERSON CITY — Women seeking an abortion in Missouri would need to wait an additional two days under legislation proposed in the state Senate.

Republican Sen. David Sater said it would offer more time to consider the decision and could reduce the number of abortions. He said he thinks some people have too hastily decided to have an abortion and ultimately regretted the decision.

"We're talking about just two more days, and it should just give maybe some more time for reflection on making the right decision," said Sater, of Cassville.

The legislation has been proposed for the 2014 legislative session starting Jan. 8.

Missouri is among many states with a 24-hour informed consent law, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. Extending the period to 72 hours would put Missouri in line with South Dakota and Utah.

The 72-hour wait was enacted in Utah in 2012 and passed in South Dakota in 2011. The South Dakota law took effect this year after Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota dropped a legal challenge to that provision. South Dakota legislation signed into law this year means weekends and holidays do not count toward the waiting period.

Opponents of lengthening the waiting time in Missouri contend it would not decrease the number of abortions but simply cause them to be performed later in pregnancy, which can increase risks.

"This is an affront to women who can make good, informed decisions without politicians telling them what they should do and how long they need to wait and how many hoops they need to jump through," said Paula Gianino, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.

The only facility currently performing elective abortions in Missouri is in St. Louis, and Gianino said one-fifth of patients travel more than 100 miles to the clinic. She said Planned Parenthood will fight the legislation and that its top legislative priority for the upcoming session is expanding eligibility for the Medicaid program.

A provisional figure from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services shows there were 9,027 abortions performed on Missouri residents in 2012. State figures show the number of abortions for Missourians has declined each year since 2008.

Sam Lee, of Campaign Life Missouri, said requiring additional time would make it easier to digest information provided before an abortion. He said Missouri consumer protection laws allow three business days to cancel a contract with a travel club and five days to reverse a time-share plan. Lee said 72 hours is reasonable.

"If she is going to be given this informed consent information — be offered the ultrasound, be offered a chance to hear the heartbeat of her baby, which is already in the law, plus all this information on alternatives to abortion agencies — she should have the opportunity to go there, not be rushed," he said.


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