The law would make women, seeking to terminate their pregnancy, wait 72 hours between the time they meet with their doctor and the actual procedure. There is only one clinic in St. Louis that provides abortions in the state. This means that women will either have to stay for three days in the city or travel back and forth. This has some Democrats concerned that the measure will affect low-income women who have problems accessing proper healthcare.
At the conclusion of a very heated debate, the House voted 111-39 to send the bill to Gov. Jay Nixon (D) for final approval. Democrats voted to pass the bill after they made a deal with Republicans to stop filibustering if the GOP promised they would drop other controversial bills.
One contentious point in the bill was that there isn't a provision exempting victims of rape and incest. State Rep. Kevin Elmer, R-Nixa, said that he was defending the rights of the unborn and that life should be protected at "all costs."
"This is a tragic occurrence -- rape, incest -- and there's a pregnancy that occurs from it. And I would never say, oh, that's a great situation," Elmer said. "But this is what gets down to the heart of it. 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."
Rep. Judy Morgan, D-Kansas City, said that women already consult those close to them and spiritual advisers before deciding to terminate a pregnancy. She said the waiting period is unnecessary because women do not take the decision to have an abortion lightly.
"Those of us who oppose this bill believe it's designed to demean and shame a woman in an effort to change her mind and places unnecessary hurdles on her decision to end a pregnancy," said Morgan.
The bill, which passed Wednesday night, is a lighter version of the original legislation. An earlier version of the bill would have required women to watch a video on abortion-related content. Women are currently required to receive a print version of this information.
It is uncertain whether Nixon will sign the bill or not. The bill passed the House with veto-proof majority, but it only passed the Senate 22-9, less than the two-thirds majority required. Nixon said in press conference that he would maintain consistency with his stance on the issue when considering his decision.
"I've had pretty consistent positions on this. I think everyone knows, obviously, which way I lean on it," Nixon said.
Nixon has a history of signing abortion-related bills into law, but he did veto legislation that would have allowed businesses to deny contraception coverage for their female employees on the religious or moral grounds.
South Dakota and Utah are the other two states to have passed the 72-hour wait period law.