Missouri Senate Passes 72-Hour Waiting Period Before an Abortion

State   Joe Ortwerth   May 13, 2014   |   11:51AM    Jefferson City, MO

The Missouri Senate worked past the midnight hour overnight to win passage of a key pro-life bill which will undoubtedly save the lives of many unborn boys and girls.  The Senate approved legislation which will extend the waiting period for an elective abortion in Missouri from 24 to 72 hours.  The Senate finally adopted the bill on a vote of 22-9, and it now returns to the Missouri House, which is expected to give final passage to the measure.

Senator David Sater of Cassville initiated the 72-hour waiting period proposal and advanced the legislation to a successful outcome after three different grueling and undignified debates in recent weeks.

missouriThe bill ultimately adopted by the Senate early this morning was a Senate Committee Substitute for House Bills 1307 and 1313.  The House bills were identical measures to Senator Sater’s proposal that were introduced in that chamber by Representatives Kevin Elmer of Nixa and Representative Keith Frederick of Rolla.

Under current law, an abortion cannot be performed in Missouri until 24 hours after a woman has visited an abortion clinic, and received information mandated by the state concerning the abortion decision.  The new proposal would extend that “reflection period” to 72 hours.

Extending the waiting period has been a priority of the Missouri Family Policy Council since we succeeded in 2010 in winning passage of a bill which dramatically strengthened Missouri’s informed consent law.  Under the revised  law, women are now provided with information concerning the development of the preborn child, including the opportunity to view an ultrasound and hear the heartbeat of the child if it is audible.

Women are also provided information concerning the nature and risks of the abortion procedure, and the names and contact information for alternatives to abortion agencies and adoption centers.  Women are informed that there are government programs and private organizations able to assist her in carrying her child to term and in caring for a newborn.  Women are specifically told the unmistakable biological fact that “the life of each human being begins at conception,” and that “abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.”

We believe that it is vital for a woman to have more time to fully evaluate all this information, carefully review her choices, and truly consider the consequences to her and her unborn child.  A longer waiting period also helps  defuse the pressure a woman is often under to abort her child from a boyfriend, parents, and even sexual predators.  Those who advocate abortion like to claim they are “pro-choice.”  This bill is designed to help ensure that the choice a woman makes is truly her own.

The 72-hour waiting period bills have faced intense and protracted resistance from pro-abortion senators, who conducted extensive filibusters to block passage of Senator Sater’s original bill, and then the House bills which were adopted earlier in the session by that chamber. The desperation of pro-abortion forces in trying to thwart the 72-hour bill became apparent as the debate often became harsh, nasty, juvenile, and beneath the dignity of a legislative body.

The Senate has a long tradition of allowing any senator or a group of senators to debate bills indefinitely.  The Senate very rarely shuts off debate.  The last time it happened was seven years ago.  It is called the “PQ”–the previous  question motion.  It is used as a last resort, and is often referred to as “the nuclear option.”

Because of the refusal of pro-abortion senators to allow this bill to come to a vote despite considerable debate, the Senate leadership took the bold step to declare they were prepared to move the previous question on the 72-hour bill.  Both Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey of St. Charles and Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard of Joplin declared they would support a PQ, and we applaud their commitment to the sanctity of human life.

The bottom line is that pro-abortion senators decided to suspend their filibuster rather than allow the previous question motion to be made.  Liberal senators were concerned that the previous question motion could be repeated on yet other pending issues that they viewed as a greater threat to their interests.

The legislation adopted by the Senate this morning must return to the House because of a difference in the final version adopted by each chamber.  The bill approved by the House included an amendment offered by Representative Linda Black.  That amendment required that informed consent materials be provided to women in video format as well as in written form.  The Senate chose to adopt the original 72-hour bill unamended.

Once the House approves the Senate changes, the bill moves on to the Governor for his consideration.  While Governor Nixon has in the past allowed pro-life proposals to become law without his signature, it is less likely that this bill will become law through the Governor’s inaction.

However, it appears that the votes exist in both the House and the Senate to override the Governor’s veto.  Should the bill become law, Missouri would become the third state with a 72-hour waiting period for abortion.  Utah and South Dakota currently have such laws on the books, neither of which is presently under legal challenge.

If the Missouri bill does face a lawsuit from the pro-abortion industry, we are confident it would ultimately be upheld by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and if necessary, by the U.S. Supreme Court itself.

We are most grateful to Senator Sater for his moral courage in promoting this life-saving measure, and for enduring a great deal of mean-spirited treatment from pro-abortion critics in the process.  Senator Sater is a kind-hearted man with a genuine devotion to the sanctity of human life.  He, along with his pro-life colleagues in the House and the Senate, have scored a major victory for women and children in Missouri.

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You can find the phone numbers and email addresses of your state senator by using this link: Your State Senator

LifeNews.com Note:  Joe Oertwerth writes for the Missouri Family Policy Council.