In the latest erosion of reproductive rights in the U.S., the Missouri senate has voted to triple the length of the current 24-hour waiting period required before an abortion. At present, twenty-six states require a waiting period between counseling and the procedure, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Missouri will now join just two other states—Utah and South Dakota—where a woman must wait 72 hours before she is allowed to exercise her constitutional right. Unlike in Utah, exceptions to the waiting period on the grounds of rape or incest will not be permitted.
Waiting periods, designed to provoke doubt in a woman about her decision, create a complex of burdens—from increasing shame a woman might feel about her situation to requiring additional trips to the clinic, which means additional travel time, costs and time off work. In Missouri, the only remaining abortion provider is in St. Louis, which can be a long trip for many women in the state.
Tripling the waiting period from one day to three only intensifies these impediments. The Post-Dispatch article notes:
“Opponents of extending the waiting period said it placed an ‘undue burden’ on women and could make it especially difficult for women with low-incomes who have to make the trip to St. Louis and stay for three days.”
Additionally, extending the waiting period can lead a woman to delay the abortion to later into the pregnancy, which can increase the risks of the otherwise safe procedure.
Before the 72-hour waiting period becomes law, the bill must return to the House for another vote. However, the House passed the earlier version of the bill in 115-39 vote. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon will have several options—including veto power and allowing the bill to take effect without his signature— should the measure make it to his desk.