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Missouri governor vetoes abortion law, citing no rape exception

The law, which Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon called "disrespectful," would have required women seeking abortions to wait an extra 72 hours.
Jay Nixon
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon speaks during a news conference in his office following the end of the legislative session on May 16, 2014, in Jefferson City, Mo.

Missouri governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, has vetoed a law that would have required abortion patients to wait 72 hours before the procedure, saying, “This extreme and disrespectful measure would unnecessarily prolong the suffering of rape and incest victims and jeopardize the health and well-being of women." Missouri would have followed South Dakota and Utah with the longest required waiting periods in the country. 

The bill passed the legislature despite a "women's filibuster" on statehouse steps that sought to draw attention to the hardship additional time would place on women, particularly low-income women. Nixon said the bill "demonstrates a callous disregard for women who find themselves in horrific circumstances." He said the law "serves no demonstrable purpose other than to create emotional and financial hardships for women who have undoubtedly already spent considerable time wrestling with perhaps the most difficult decision they may ever have to make.”

Missouri already mandates 24 hours between required counseling and an abortion procedure, and requires the physician to give the woman an opportunity to view an ultrasound. 

In his veto letter, the governor took care to focus on sexual assault survivors. Missouri residents famously rejected Todd Akin after his comments about rape and abortion. 

"No woman should be further victimized by a government that forces her to endure even longer the horror that is the crime of rape," Nixon wrote. 

But, he added, even a rape and incest exception — which Democrats tried to add but were blocked by Republicans — would not make the law acceptable to him. 

"Expanding the mandatory waiting period presupposes that women are unable to make up their own minds without further government intervention," Nixon wrote.  "This is insulting to women, particularly in light of what the law already requires." 

In May, Republican Speaker of the House Tim Jones defended the bill in a radio segment, by saying, “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.”

The move was swiftly cheered by pro-choice advocates. "Missouri women have been clear: They are beyond fed up with legislators playing politics with their health,” said Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Governor Nixon has shown that he understands that extreme politicians can’t be allowed to interfere with a woman’s ability to get an abortion just because they disagree with her decision.”

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said that "politicians in Missouri pushed this bill through in the dead of night, over the objections of the people they’re supposed to represent, and we’re grateful that Governor Nixon vetoed it." 

NARAL Pro-Choice America rates Nixon "mixed-choice."