How long 72 hours is may depend on who you ask. For the Missouri activists supporting abortion rights, it’s a very long time to make someone wait between clinic appointments, and, to prove it, they stood on the steps of the capitol for three days straight speaking out against it.
Dubbed The Women’s Filibuster, the reproductive rights advocates attempted to follow in the footsteps of that famous Texas filibuster last summer that ground the state’s abortion bans to a halt — at least, until the governor called another special session to push them through again. But unlike the Texas version, it had to happen outside the legislature, since the lawmakers inside the building chose to kill their own filibuster early in exchange for potentially getting some leverage on voter ID laws and worker’s rights.
By Tuesday morning, the Senate had already approved the new 72 hour waiting period between first and second appointments at an abortion clinic, a waiting period that would not be waived for victims of sexual assault. “They actually think what is best for a woman who has been raped and impregnated by a relative, is to remain pregnant and wait 72 MORE hours to think about whether our not she wants to terminate,” writes activist and comedienne Lizz Winstead. “No really. This is how they value women. The message is loud and clear.”
Despite the capitulation in the Senate, the Women’s Filibuster continued on until 2 pm Thursday, a full 72 hours after it began. The time was filled by testimonies, letters and reading aloud from a variety of texts (including a full reading of my own book, which my coauthor and I were extremely honored by). None of the words, however, swayed House members, who then voted Wednesday night to pass the bill, even stating that their primary goal was to ensure God’s will was done.
“The crux of it is for me when does life begin, and how do you value it? For me, even though that tragic situation may occur, I still believe that God is at work in this world and that he’ll let bad things happen and he doesn’t cause it,” said Republican Rep. Kevin Elmer, the House sponsor, who defended his bill, including a refusal to add rape exceptions, as a battle to defend the rights of the unborn.
The filibuster continued after the vote passed, and the bill was just a governor’s signature from becoming law. They continued speaking despite the cold, the dark, the futility of their efforts to derail it before it went to the governor. They continued to fight not because they could stop the bill in the legislature, but because the bill deserved to be fought against, whether it was a fight that could be won at the Capitol or not.
“Male politicians and their paternalistic abortion laws deserve a fight like this,” writes Jessica Valenti at The Guardian. “When Thursday comes and the women’s filibuster ends, the new waiting period for abortions will still be there. But so will women like [advocate Liz] Read-Katz, who will tell their stories until Missouri’s anti-choice legislators feel the shame that they so desperately want to impose on women.”
Now, the only thing stopping a 72 hour wait that will likely drive pregnant people out of the state for abortions is the Democratic Governor Jay Nixon, who has a habit of refusing to either sign or veto anti-abortion legislation, preferring to just let it become law without his fingers all over it. This time, however, there are Capitol steps full of people who will be urging him to veto this bill and stop the GOP from trampling the rights of pregnant people in the state. And there are even more supporters behind them, urging him to stand up for their rights.
The Women’s Filibuster may have only been 72 hours long, but that doesn’t mean that anyone’s work is over. Now, it is time to demand a veto.
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