Missouri lawmakers on Wednesday forced through one of the most severe abortion waiting periods in the country, tripling the amount of time a woman in the state must wait to terminate a pregnancy to 72 hours, leaving no exceptions for incest or rape.
Governor Jay Nixon had previously vetoed the new legislation due to its exclusion of the exceptions. But Missouri's GOP-controlled House on Wednesday voted 117-44 to overturn the governor's veto, with the Senate voting 23-7, thus enacting the law, which will go into effect in 30 days.
The bill passed despite opposition from state residents. According to Planned Parenthood, more than 3,700 Missourians called lawmakers urging them to oppose the bill. Hundreds of protesters opposing the expanded wait time rallied at the state capitol in Jefferson City on Wednesday.
"The legislators who took extraordinary measures to force this bill into law are way out of step with the more than 70% of Missourians who wanted them to allow the veto to stand," said Paula Gianino, President and CEO of Advocates, the political arm of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.
Opponents of the restriction say it will have a disastrous impact on access to reproductive health care. The rule “will block access to safe, legal abortion and target women who already have the least access to medical care,” said Laura McQuade, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.
The state only has one abortion provider, a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis, and state residents seeking abortion are forced to travel an average of almost 100 miles to receive an abortion, according to Planned Parenthood. Missouri state law already forces patients to complete two health center visits and receive in-person counseling aimed at preventing abortion.
The expanded three-day wait period is the second longest in the country. South Dakota imposes a 72-hour wait period which can extend even longer, as it excludes weekends and holidays. Utah also imposes a 72-hour wait but makes exceptions for rape and incest. Half of all states impose a mandatory wait period of at least 24 hours for those seeking abortions, according to data from the Guttmacher Institute.