Activists stage 72-hour 'women's filibuster'

Thursday, May 15, 2014 | 5:55 p.m. CDT
Volunteers from the women's filibuster talk Wednesday after staging a 72-hour live streaming filibuster on the south steps of the Capitol. According to the group, the Missouri legislation is currently considering about 30 bills that could have a negative impact on women's health. Some of the issues discussed were increased waiting times for abortions and Medicaid expansion.

JEFFERSON CITY — Filibusters don't generally end with hugs in the Missouri legislature, but tired activists brought 72 hours of testimony to a close with cheers and embraces. The activists had united to urge a veto of HB 1307, which would triple the mandatory waiting period for abortions. 

More than 80 people participated in the nonstop filibuster, which began Monday afternoon, offering personal testimonies or reading from books. While small crowds came to the Capitol steps in waves, a live stream on and Twitter hashtag #womensfilibuster drew thousands of responses from Missouri and beyond.

"I definitely feel the support from all over the country and from fellow Missourians who can't be here," said Pamela Merritt, the communications director for Progress Missouri. "But that's why we're here, because not everyone can break away in the middle of the day and fight for their rights. I'm exhausted, but it's worth it to be here."

Merritt said speakers drove in from as far as Iowa to take part.

The House sent HB 1307 to the governor's desk after a 111-39 vote on Wednesday, as the filibuster continued just outside. The filibuster matched the period that women would have to wait to obtain an abortion if Nixon signs the bill into law.

"Missourians, we're hardworking people. We've got jobs and families, and we can't break away," Merritt said. "That's the point of a 72-hour filibuster, to remind just how hard it is to break away and go do something for even 30 minutes."

Nixon issued a statement Thursday saying that he had "profound concerns" with the bill, citing a lack of exceptions for cases of rape and incest. He has not confirmed if he will sign or veto the bill.

Merritt said that activist groups will do anything in their power to block the bill from going into law. The megaphone splashed across purple "women's filibuster" shirts was a telling symbol for the protest: They want to be heard.

"This is the beginning of something amazing. This is not the end," she said.

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