Missouri state legislators have filed bills which would provide women considering abortion more time to contemplate their decision. Legislation filed in both the Missouri Senate and Missouri House of Representatives
would extend the waiting period for an abortion from 24 to 72 hours.State Senator David Sater
of Cassville initiated the effort to expand the abortion waiting period by filing Senate Bill 519. Senator Sater said that he believes women need more time to consider the seriousness of a decision to end the life of an unborn child.
"A woman who makes a choice to abort her child has to live with that decision for the rest of her life," Sater says. "It only makes sense that such a grave decision should be based on complete information and careful evaluation."
"We're just talking about two more days," Sater adds. "This bill would guarantee that the woman has sufficient time to truly reflect on making the right decision for her and her child." State Representatives Keith Frederick
of Rolla and Kevin Elmer
of Nixa have filed companion bills in the House, namely House Bills 1313 and 1307. Those bills are being heard this week in the House Health Care Policy Committee, which is chaired by Representative Frederick.
Waiting periods, often referred to as "reflection periods," have been a staple of state laws regulating abortion since they were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey
. In that landmark decision, the Court ruled that states have a "legitimate interest in assuring that a woman's consent to an abortion [is] fully informed." The justices said that a waiting period "helps ensure that a woman's decision to
abort is a well-considered one."
The Missouri Legislature significantly strengthened the state's informed consent law in 2010. Under the provisions of the revised law, a woman seeking an abortion must be furnished with detailed information covering the nature of the abortion procedure, the health risks of the procedure, and alternatives to abortion. She must also be given the opportunity to see an ultrasound of the child and hear the heartbeat of the child if it is audible.
Since the adoption of the law, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has prepared a booklet which is given to each woman who visits an abortion clinic 24 hours before the scheduled procedure. The booklet includes images and information explaining the development of the preborn child at two-week gestational increments. The booklet outlines the types
of abortion procedures and the immediate and long-term risks of undergoing an abortion.
The written materials describe the Missouri Alternatives to Abortion Program and its eligibility requirements. The woman is given a regional listing of pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes, and adoption agencies. The documents encourage the woman to contact agencies such as these who will assist her in carrying the child to term, or placing the child for adoption.
The booklet begins with this factual statement: "The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being."
The Missouri Family Policy Council played the leading role in developing and promoting our state's
strengthened informed consent law. We strongly support efforts to extend the abortion waiting period so that women have adequate time to review the information provided and be able to make a truly informed judgement about such a life-changing decision.
Professionals who work in pregnancy resource centers can testify to the fact that women seeking an abortion are often under intense pressure to abort from boyfriends, parents, and even grandparents. The pressure is even greater when young women have been impregnated by adult men and sexual predators.
The additional reflection period would provide a "cooling-off period" for family members to absorb the reality of an unintended pregnancy and assess the consequences of an abortion decision. The longer waiting period would provide women who have been victimized by sexual abuse more time to escape the physical and emotional hold of their abuser and seek help from caring professionals.
Two states have already acted to extend the customary 24-hour waiting period. Utah and South Dakota have laws on the books that require a 72 hour reflection period. The South Dakota law was initially challenged in federal
court by Planned Parenthood, but the challenge to the 72-hour provision was subsequently dropped. The Utah law has never been the subject of litigation.
Missouri would join these states in combining a comprehensive and substantial informed consent law with an extended reflection period. We applaud the legislative sponsors of these bills for their principled pro-life leadership. Senator Sater was the sponsor of last year's successful bill protecting the conscience rights of pharmacy owners.
We urge you to contact your state senator and state representatives to encourage their support for these proposals.
You can contact your state senator to urge his or her support for Senate Bill 519 by using this link:Your State Senator
You can contact your state representative to encourage his or her support for House Bills 1307 and 1313 by clicking this link:Your State Representative
If you do not know your state legislators, you can identify that information by following this link:Legislator Lookup