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Missouri governor calls abortion bill an "extreme proposal"

Thursday, May 15, 2014 | 5:36 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon raised concerns Thursday about a bill that would triple the amount of time Missouri women must wait for an abortion, one day after the Republican-led legislature sent it to his desk.

Nixon called the measure to impose a 72-hour time frame between a woman's initial doctor visit and the procedure an "extreme proposal." He criticized lawmakers for not including an exemption for victims of rape and incest.

"I have profound concerns about its impact on women and especially the victims of these heinous crimes," the governor said in a written statement.

Nixon did not say whether he would veto the measure and added that he was continuing to review the bill. He 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.

Missouri's current one-day waiting period doesn't include a rape and incest exemption. Like current law, the new bill would exclude medical emergencies from the waiting period. A St. Louis-based Planned Parenthood is the only clinic currently performing elective abortions in Missouri.

Republicans argue the longer waiting period gives women more time to consider the consequences of an abortion. An attempt to include an exemption for rape and incest was defeated on the Senate floor during debate on the bill earlier this month.

"Why should the baby suffer a penalty, a death that they did nothing to deserve simply because of the circumstances?" asked Rep. Keith Frederick, a Republican from the central Missouri town of Rolla.

Nixon's comments came as a group of about 30 women gathered to conclude what they described as a 72-hour "citizen filibuster" against the three-day abortion waiting period. Speakers began taking turns Monday talking about the negative impacts of the bill from a lectern on the Capitol steps

Liz Read-Katz, a Columbia resident and Planned Parenthood volunteer, began and ended the demonstration. She had an abortion in 2011 after finding out her child had a chromosomal defect. She described her decision as "heartbreaking," but said the waiting period wouldn't have impacted her choice and that lawmakers should not impose their moral views on others.

"When a woman makes a decision to have an abortion she has already been thinking about it longer than 72 hours," she said.

Nixon said the measure would set Missouri apart from all but one other state in restricting abortion. Utah and South Dakota, have three-day abortion waiting periods, but Utah's waiting period does not apply when a woman becomes pregnant because of rape or incest, or when she is younger than 14.

Missouri's proposal would mirror South Dakota's when it comes to excluding exemptions. But under South Dakota's law, weekends and holidays don't count toward the 72-hour waiting period.

The bill would need a two-thirds majority vote in the House and Senate to override a potential veto. It cleared the House with a 111-39 vote, two more than the minimum veto-override threshold. Nine of Nixon's fellow Democrats joined House Republicans in support of the bill.

It was one vote shy of a two-thirds majority in the Senate, but one Republican senator was absent for the vote.

 


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