Governor vetoes 72-hour waiting bill, override likely

JEFFERSON CITY – Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed July 2 a bill that would extend the waiting period to get an abortion in Missouri from 24 to 72 hours. It now faces a likely veto override by the General Assembly in September.

The bill passed the Missouri House 111-39 and the Senate 22-9. It takes two third to override a veto, a margin the bill would have if legislators’ votes remained the same.

Pro-life legislators said the extended waiting period was appropriate given the magnitude of the decisions involved, but Nixon in his veto letter said it was “a disrespectful measure that would unnecessarily prolong the suffering of rape and incest victims and jeopardize the health and wellbeing of women.”

“Rape is a crime that knows no boundaries, and awful though it is to consider, could happen to the woman who sings in the church choir or the woman who teaches your children or even your wife,” Nixon said. “No woman should be further victimized by a government that forces her to endure even longer the horror that is the crime of rape.”

Joe Ortwerth, executive director of the Missouri Family Policy Council, disagreed with the governor’s reasoning, saying it “reflects his growing hostility toward the pro-life and pro-family values of the people of Missouri.”

“Nothing in this bill prevents any woman who has been a victim of rape or incest from receiving immediate medical treatment from health care professionals,” Ortwerth said in a statement. “This legislation assures that a woman considering abortion has sufficient time to evaluate accurate medical information concerning the abortion procedure. It also furthers a woman’s freedom to make an independent choice about abortion free from coercion from boyfriends, parents or sexual predators.”

Other pro-life leaders agree.

“This is good law, one that can save the lives of unborn babies and help a mother make an informed decision about her health, physically, mentally and spiritually,” said Don Hinkle, director of public policy for the Missouri Baptist Convention, the state’s largest evangelical denomination. “The governor’s decision to veto this important legislation is not surprising, nor will it be surprising when a thoughtful and wise General Assembly overrides his veto in September.”

“Abortion is a life-changing procedure,” said Missouri Right to Life’s president, Pam Fichter. “It ends the life of an unborn baby; a decision that can never be undone. In making this decision, women need time to review all the medical information and the alternatives available. This bill provides that.”

Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, the bill’s sponsor in the Senate and a member of First Baptist Church there, issued a statement saying he believes the bill will become law with a veto override.

Kathy Forck, a “sidewalk advocate” who spent five years praying outside the Columbia Planned Parenthood site, said she agrees that a longer waiting period would lower abortions in Missouri.

“I can attest that one out of three moms chose not to return for an abortion when Planned Parenthood had a three-day waiting period of their own choosing,” she said.

Forck said clinic staffers would have expectant mothers come for the abortion counseling on Monday and would be told to return on Thursday for the procedure. From her estimation, one out of three moms did not come back.

“We have the data: 72 hours saved one out of three babies,” she said.

While the Columbia location has since stopped offering abortions, the St. Louis Planned Parenthood site – the only abortion provider left in the state – still offers them and currently requires only the current legal minimum of 24 hours’ wait. However, there is a location in Granite City, Ill., just a few miles from the state line where there is no waiting period.

Utah and South Dakota are the only two states with 72-hour waiting periods, though Utah has the exceptions for rape and incest similar to what Nixon is demanding.