Battle brews between legislature, Planned Parenthood

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Sater pushes bill that would extend waiting period from 24 hours to 72

State Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, has filed a bill that aims to extend the waiting period for a woman to have an abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours, and the lone abortion provider is pushing back.

Sater said the reason he filed the bill is because Planned Parenthood St. Louis Region performed more than 9,000 abortions last year, and he hopes to see a drop in that number.

"I would like to see fewer abortions, and if a person has more time to contemplate such a life-changing decision, because we are talking about the death of a child, hopefully, they will have the time to pray on it and may make the decision not to have an abortion," he said.

Sater said the Senate discussed the bill for about two hours in mid-February, and when put up to a vote, should pass along party lines with 24 Republicans for and nine Democrats against.

"Then, the Governor [Jay Nixon] will probably veto it, and we'll see it again in the veto session in September," he said.

Opponents of SB 519 say if enacted, this legislation would require Missouri women to schedule time off work, child care, and travel to the state's only remaining abortion provider over the course of multiple days.

"Forcing a woman to wait even longer before accessing medical care does nothing to improve her health and will force abortion later in pregnancy," said Paula Gianino, President and CEO of ADVOCATES, the political arm of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri. "Abortion is a very safe procedure, but it is safer the earlier it is provided. This senseless restriction would put women's health at risk by delaying medical care, all in the name of politics."

Sater said there was an amendment added to the bill that cuts out much of the inform consent information, such as discussions of possible emotional and psychological consequences and the possible advantages of adoption, and that could affect a woman's decision to get an abortion.

"With less information, it might enable a person to make the wrong decision and not know they are making the wrong decision," Sater said.

Planned Parenthood said numerous restrictions enacted in recent years have contributed to severely limited access to providers of safe and legal abortion statewide, and under current law, Missouri women face significant barriers when accessing an abortion. Part of these restrictions include counseling sessions, which opponents say is designed to change a woman's mind.

Under the current law, a woman considering an abortion, no matter how far away she lives, must receive counseling, then return home for a 24-hour period before having to come back for the procedure.

"It's only weeks into the Missouri legislative session, and politicians have already filed more than 20 bills that could restrict a woman's access to health care," said Peter Brownlie, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. "The Missouri Legislature has already spent way too much time attacking women's health instead of focusing on priorities like increasing access to health care through Medicaid expansion."

Sater said he acknowledges the extended period may lead to logistical difficulties for women.

"There may be some added costs, but this isn't like going to get a root canal," he said. "To me, it's too important a decision to where a few dollars might get in the way, because we are talking about the death of a child."

Proponents of the 72-hour, state-mandated delay, such as Jenny Slawson, a volunteer at the Pregnancy Help Center in Jefferson City, said in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch report that women are often emotional when learning of a "crisis pregnancy," and those emotions affect decision-making.

"They are not thinking rationally, and I think it would very much benefit these women to have a little bit of extra time," Slawson said in the Post-Dispatch interview. "48 additional hours can mean a tremendous difference."

If the bill proposing the 72-hour waiting period is struck down, the 24-hour waiting period will remain in place. Sater said the bill should be coming back to the floor in the next few weeks.

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