Missouri Democrats Cave on Abortion Rights, But #WomensFilibuster Fights Back

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Common Dreams

Missouri Democrats Cave on Abortion Rights, But #WomensFilibuster Fights Back

'Once again, legislators are interfering with a personal, private decision made by a woman with her family and her doctor'

Despite passage of a regressive anti-choice bill in the state senate on Tuesday, women in Missouri are continuing to fight back outside the state Capitol Building with a 72-hour people's filibuster designed to draw attention to the continued assault on reproductive freedoms in the state.

On Tuesday morning the Republican-controlled Missouri Senate approved a mandatory 72-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion that would force them to wait three additional days after meeting with a physician.

Jennifer Dalven, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Freedom Project, slammed the law.

“Once again, legislators are interfering with a personal, private decision made by a woman with her family and her doctor,” said Dalven. “It’s time for all of us to take out our pink Wendy Davis sneakers and let our elected representatives know that we won’t stand by while they play politics with women’s health.”

The passage of the measure became possible after Democrats made a political deal to drop a procedural block after assurances were made by the GOP that they would cease efforts to pass other contentious bills, including a voter ID law and a workers rights bill.

As the Joplin Globe reported:

Despite their opposition, Democrats ceased their filibuster shortly after midnight following hours of extended debate about the bill as part of an agreement that would impact other legislation.

“This bill has seen more debate than any other bill we’ve taken up this year,” said state Sen. Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis.

He also said if Republicans had used a rare procedural maneuver titled “Previous Question,” which would allow them to trump the filibuster and move forward with a vote — as Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, R.-Joplin, had openly threatened — it could have soured relations between lawmakers and derailed the chamber’s other priorities, including passing legislation to address the school transfer crisis facing St. Louis.

“We are at a point in our session where there are many other issues to be taken up in the next few days, many of which are terribly important to my constituency,” Sifton said.

In exchange for ending the filibuster, Senate Republicans agreed to not bring up two other pieces of legislation opposed by Democrats this year — a constitutional amendment authorizing a photo ID requirement for elections and a measure known as “paycheck protection” affecting union fees for public employees.

An editorial in the St. Louis Dispatch said allowing the assault on women's right to become a bargaining chip was beyond the pale. The board wrote:

Pitting women’s rights against those of union members and minority voters seems like an especially cynical legislative tactic. The fact that it was successful should alarm any voter who doesn’t have access to substantial amounts of money looking for a representative form of government in Missouri.

The anti-abortion bill passed by the Senate extends the waiting period for women seeking abortions to 72 hours. It is currently 24 hours. The bill, HB 1307, now goes back to the House, which has already passed a similar bill.

The impact of this legislation will fall hardest on women with low incomes and those from rural areas, who may not be able to take extra days off work, pay for more child care or afford additional trips to St. Louis, the only place in Missouri where abortions are performed legally.

Under the hashtag #womensfilibuster on Twitter, women in Missouri and across the country were lending their support and adding their voices to the protest:

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