Override refuels abortion debate

The abortion law requires a day’s delay before an abortion can be perfomed.
Friday, September 12, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:20 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Thursday’s vote by the Missouri Senate to override Gov. Holden’s veto of a bill that requires 24-hour waiting periods for abortions drew opposite reactions from Columbia’s anti-abortion and abortion-rights camps.

The new law, which will go into effect Oct. 11, will also require women to discuss with a doctor the physical, psychological and situational risk factors of the procedure before an abortion can be performed.

Kerri McBee, communication affairs director of the Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri in Columbia, said a scarcity of doctors who provide abortion counseling in Columbia could result in women having abortions much later in their pregnancy.

Columbia’s Planned Parenthood has one medical doctor, who also works in the organization’s Kansas City and St. Louis clinics.

“We already offer all that counseling, but most of our counseling is done by support staff, like registered nurses or clinical caseworkers,” McBee said.

She said the new law could also result in women having a child when they don’t want to.

Nile Abele, executive director of the Open Arms Crisis Pregnancy Center, said he hopes that’s the case. Open Arms promotes parenting and adoption as better alternatives to abortion.

Abele said the one-day waiting period is crucial because it gives women more time to consider their options.

“Many women who are abortion-minded are in unplanned situations,” he said. “It’s a crisis situation for many, and the extra day gives them an opportunity to really think about it.”

McBee said she was offended by that assumption.

“This bill implies that women haven’t considered this thoroughly already,” she said.

Many abortion-rights advocates see the new law as another attack on Roe v. Wade, the 30-year-old Supreme Court decision that legalized abortions.

But Abele said while he would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned, he said he doesn’t think this law is necessarily aimed to do that.

“It’s unfair for the other side to make a blanket statement saying this is going to overturn Roe v. Wade,” he said. “The (governor’s) veto was simply overridden because this bill is positive for women.”

McBee said she won’t let Thursday’s decision be the last word on what she calls “restrictions on access to a legal procedure.” She intends to meet with Planned Parenthood’s lawyers to discuss the clinic’s next steps.

“We’re going to do whatever we can do to continue safe, reliable access to abortions,” she said. “They’re going to have to do a heck of a lot more than this to stop us.”

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