There are only two states in the country that have 72 hour long waiting periods between an initial appointment for an abortion and when the procedure is done: Utah and South Dakota. Now, Missouri is considering extending their own 24 hour wait for an additional two days, and if they do, the change could potentially stop patients from seeking an abortion in the state all together.
SB 519, which has been prefiled by Republican state Senator David Sater, “Amends the current waiting period for having an abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours.” However, a three day long waiting period is no simple requirement for the pregnant people of Missouri seeking to terminate a pregnancy. Because Missouri has only one clinic in the entire state, located in St. Louis, the extended wait would require multiple trips to the clinic, hotel stays or rides back home, and could potentially push pregnant people into needing later abortions because many may need to wait as much as a week in order to fit in the two appointments.
This isn’t Sen. Sater’s first go at trying to cut off abortion access. The senator, who has a “100% prolife record,” was the sponsor of last year’s bill to ensure that pharmacists cannot be required to keep “abortion-inducing” drugs in stock. Of course, “abortion inducing” is in the eye of the beholder, as a number of anti-choice politicians consider even basic contraception to be a mini-abortion.
This proposed bill shows a subtle shift in tactics in the state and a new push to ban abortion without outright banning it. Although South Dakota and Utah also have extended waiting periods, neither state has clinics nearby to provide an alternative for abortion patients who can’t jump through the hoops that would be needed for a three day long wait.
For those in Missouri who need an abortion, it’s only another fifteen minutes across the river to a clinic in Granite City, Ill., where a three day waiting period doesn’t exist. If the choice is to make multiple trips or stay many nights in town, or to just make one slightly longer trip without the additional restrictions, the choice is pretty simple. Then, if it simply becomes that much more convenient to leave the state, the Missouri legislature will have accomplished what multiple states have been itching to do — be the first to eliminate abortion access in the state all together.
For those who already use the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis, simply trying to access that clinic is becoming a greater feat every day. The clinic has been under constant surveillance by Operation Rescue and a local anti-choice group known as Defenders of the Unborn. Their goal is to document any time an ambulance comes to the clinic, trying to film the incident and pull up medical records of the event to publish on their website.
The city has stopped allowing the groups to do FOIA requests on the ambulance calls, adding to anti-choice activists’ conviction that the city is “colluding” with the clinic to keep it open. The group still takes as many video recordings and photos as possible, leading to a heightened sense of tension and potential for violation of privacy at the St. Louis site.
Could a three day wait be the final hurdle that makes trying to get an abortion in Missouri just too much effort? If so, expect every other low clinic access state to follow suit.
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