With the St. Louis County election coming up on Nov. 4, many house representatives have chosen their side in the abortion debate. Anti-abortion organizations like Missouri Right to Life and pro-abortion organizations like Missouri NOW (National Organization for Women) have each endorsed several house representatives for the election.
Missouri House Bill 1307 went into effect earlier this month, which extended the waiting period for women to get an abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours. The new bill requires pregnant women to visit a licensed abortion clinic for an initial visit and after a 72-hour waiting period, she is able to officially decide whether or not to have the abortion.
The St. Louis Planned Parenthood clinic is the only licensed abortion clinic located within the nearly 70,000 square miles of Missouri.
On the first visit, pregnant women will receive counseling and materials showing alternatives to abortion and health problems associated with the procedure. Women are required under the bill to see images of the characteristics of an unborn child from conception to full term. They are then given the option to have an ultrasound as well.
South Dakota, Utah and Missouri are the only states with 72-hour wait policies. South Dakota has the strictest regulations among the three states with no exception for rape and incest and a 72-hour wait period that does not count weekends or holidays. Missouri also has no abortion exceptions for rape or incest victims.
Dave Plemmons, the political action committee chairman for the Missouri Right to Life organization, has helped endorse and elect anti-abortion representatives for the 2014 elections. The representatives include: Ann Wagner, Garrett Mees, Cloria Brown and Mike Leara.
Plemmons said women need support and information about the abortion procedure and its long-term effects on their bodies and their unborn child before making the final decision. Missouri Right to Life did not propose the 72-hour wait legislation but he said they were happy to support it.
“We believe that often times what happens is that those who are in a stressed situation, where there is a crisis, (they) do not know exactly what they would like to do,” Plemmons said.
The Missouri Right to Life organization aims to pass legislation that defends innocent human life from conception to death according to the organization’s website, MissouriLife.org. He said the 72-hour wait allows patients to make a more informed decision after getting materials and alternate options from the counselor and the abortion clinic and time to reflect on them.
Webster University junior and human rights major Miranda Kenny is also on the anti-abortion side. She said people need to be more careful and use contraception when they do not have plans to deal with pregnancy so abortion is not even a question.
She said once the egg is fertilized, it becomes a potential child and if the woman has an abortion then she is taking away a child’s future.
“I believe the choice of the potential child is just as important as the woman,” Kenny said. “No one knows who this child is going to be.”
Seileach Corleigh, the president of Missouri NOW, said abortion regulations punish women. She said once women find out they are pregnant, they are already thinking of all of their options and what is best for them. She said the 72-hour wait is an insult.
“The people who put forth these laws seem to be operating under the delusion that women just sporadically wake up one morning and randomly go, ‘Hey, I think I’m gonna terminate my pregnancy’,” Corleigh said. “They (legislators) think, ‘Well, if we make women sit through this that will make them think.’”
Missouri NOW focuses on “secure abortion, birth control and reproductive rights for all women” according to MissouriNow.org. The Missouri NOW political action committee (PAC) has endorsed several representatives for the 2014 election including: Deb Lavender, Jeanne Kirkton, Bob Burns and Vicki Lorenz Englund.
Corleigh said the legislation is about policing women’s bodies and pays no attention to their health. She said the fact that there is no exception for rape or incest is disheartening.
“Apparently it’s not enough for a woman to endure it (sexual assault) once,” Corleigh said. “She has to be reminded of it all the time and not be allowed to ever move past it.”
Webster senior and women and gender studies major Molly Waters created a group on campus called Choice Out Loud. The group focuses on the sexual health and reproductive rights of women.
Abortion procedures at Planned Parenthood cost between $300 to $950, but Waters said travel, lodging, taking off work and daycare for other children the woman may have make the cost to get an abortion significantly higher. She said with only one abortion clinic in Missouri and the 72-hour wait, it is almost impossible for some women to have the opportunity to get an abortion.
“If men were the ones having children there would be an abortion clinic on every corner,” Waters said. “If you can’t control your body then you can’t control much in your life, especially a child which is not only your body but will become a whole other body, a whole other life that you have to take care of.”