Missouri progressive activists are staging a nonstop, 72-hour “women’s filibuster” on the steps of the Missouri State Capitol building today to protest an abortion bill that would force a woman to wait three days between two clinic visits before having an abortion.
The activists’ hope is to prevent Republicans in the state Senate from breaking a Democratic filibuster on the bill, which already passed the House. The legislative session ends Friday.
The first speaker scheduled is Elizabeth Read Katz, who testified about her experience with an abortion following the discovery of a lethal fetal anomaly. “For me personally, after my husband and I had made this heartbreaking decision, I can’t imagine what it would have meant to be forced to wait three more agonizing days for the procedure,” she said in her testimony.
The bill, one of a slew of abortion restrictions proposed in the Missouri legislature this term, triples Missouri’s existing 24-hour waiting period. The state has only one abortion clinic, in St. Louis.
Last week, Democrats in the Senate tried and failed to get an exception to the bill for rape victims. Only two other states, Utah and South Dakota, have waiting periods that long.
Senate minority leader Jolie Justus told Mid-Missouri Public Radio that the 72-hour waiting period bill was a Republican priority. “I have been told that this is something that, even if they have to use extraordinary measures to stop our filibusters, that they are going to pass this bill this year,” she said. Those extraordinary measures include a “previous question” procedural motion that could break the veto. Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, could also veto the bill, but so far he has passively allowed abortion restrictions to go into effect without his signature or veto.
Speaker of the House Tim Jones defended the bill in the same radio segment: “If we were to choose the opposite extreme, and the state were not to choose to protect life well, eventually the state would run out of citizens, it would run out of taxpayers and the state would cease to exist.”
A preliminary study on Texas’s 24-hour abortion waiting period found that one third of women reported it had a negative effect on their emotional well being, and about half said it made their ordeal more expensive. There is no evidence that the intended purpose of the waiting period, that women change their minds, has the desired effect.
“You’re acting like women are stupid, like women are idiots,” said Missouri state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, during the debate, according to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Hopefully this bill goes down in flames.”