UPDATE: House passes bill tripling abortion waiting period

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 | 6:25 p.m. CDT; updated 9:40 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, March 11, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY — Legislation passed by the state House on Tuesday would make Missouri the third state to make women wait three days to have an abortion after seeing a doctor.

The bill would triple Missouri's current 24-hour waiting period and put the state in line with Utah and South Dakota as the only states to mandate a 72-hour time frame. The Missouri House vote came hours after a few hundred anti-abortion advocates rallied at the state Capitol in support of the measure.

"If you are going to make a decision about life or death, shouldn't it take more than three days to think about it?" House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, asked at the rally in the Capitol rotunda.

But opponents said the bill is an affront to women and would push them further into pregnancies before an abortion, which can increase risk.

"Having politicians force women to further delay when they have abortions is wrong, and it will force women to undergo more complicated abortion procedures," said Paula Gianino, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.

The Missouri House voted 115-39 to send the bill to the Senate. Nine Democrats joined Republicans in supporting the bill. The final vote tally is six more than would be needed to override a veto from Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

Nixon has previously allowed other abortion restrictions to become law without his signature, including a measure last year that requires doctors to be in the room for the initial dose of a drug used in medical abortions. At a Monday news conference, Nixon said only that he would thoroughly review the waiting-period bill.

The St. Louis-based Planned Parenthood is the only facility in Missouri that performs elective abortions. Gianino said that if the bill became law, Missouri women would be forced to have extended stays in St. Louis or would have to drive to the clinic multiple times.

But supporters said the extended waiting period would give women an additional opportunity to consult with family and more time to consider the decision. Sam Lee, president of Campaign Life Missouri, said the bill would be a great benefit to women and could reduce the number of abortions.

Missouri's waiting period would mirror laws in Utah and South Dakota, but there are differences.

Utah's waiting period does not apply when a woman becomes pregnant because of rape or incest or when she is younger than 14. Under South Dakota's law, weekends and holidays don't count toward the 72-hour period.

The Missouri waiting period wouldn't apply in instances deemed by a doctor to be a medical emergency.

In addition to the waiting period, Missouri's abortion law requires doctors to give women a variety of written information about the procedure, and they must be given the opportunity to hear the fetus' heartbeat on an ultrasound. The waiting period bill would add a video produced by state officials to the information women already receive prior to an abortion.

Missouri's House also passed a separate measure Tuesday that would require girls younger than 18 to notify both parents within five days of having an abortion. Current law requires teenagers to get consent only from one parent before having the procedure.

The Missouri Senate debated a similar 72-hour waiting period bill last week but did not get to a vote after encountering opposition from Democratic senators. Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard said after the debate that he would be willing to employ a seldom-used procedural move to shut off debate and force a Senate vote on the legislation.

"I'm for life and not death," said Richard, R-Joplin. "It's important to me."

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