(Updated 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 2)
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has vetoed a bill that would have tripled the state’s waiting period for an abortion to 72 hours, saying it reflected “a callous disregard for women who find themselves in horrific circumstances.”
The governor noted in Wednesday’s veto message that the bill, HB 1307, had no exceptions for rape or incest.
“This extreme and disrespectful measure would unnecessarily prolong the suffering of rape and incest victims and jeopardize the health and wellbeing of women,” Nixon said Wednesday.
“By failing to include an exception for rape and incest, House Bill 1307 demonstrates a callous disregard for women who find themselves in horrific circumstances and would make Missouri one of just two states in the nation to take such an extreme step. Lengthening the already extensive waiting period serves no demonstrable purpose other than to create emotional and financial hardships for women who have undoubtedly already spent considerable time wrestling with perhaps the most difficult decision they may ever have to make.”
Missouri already requires a 24-hour waiting period, as well as requirements that women be given information about the fetus’ development.
Nixon's comments were unusually harsh for him. Although he supports reproductive rights, Nixon often has not emphasized that stance. And since taking office, he has allowed a number of abortion-related restrictions to go into effect.
Pam Fichter, president of Missouri Right to Life, said abortion opponents were "profoundly disappointed that Gov. Nixon doesn't want to provide the 72-hour reflection period to give protection to women in crisis pregnancies."
But Fichter added that she wasn't surprised.
She said that Right to Life is "urging pro-life legislators of both parties to override the governor's veto in September."
The 72-hour bill had generated national interest from both sides in the ongoing debate over reproductive rights. The Missouri House's final vote was veto-proof: 111-39. But the state Senate's support -- 22-9 – was one vote shy of veto-proof.
Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, said he'll do what he can to win a veto override. "This is a common sense measure to help preserve life, and it is unconscionable for Governor Nixon to veto this bill," Jones said. "During the coming months, I will be discussing this matter with my colleagues, and we will be revisiting this issue in September during veto session. Life must be protected, and I will not waver in my commitment to make Missouri one of the safest states in the nation for the unborn."
The national president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, swiftly weighed in with praise of Nixon. “This bill was extreme and dangerous, and it would have interfered with personal medical decisions that women must be able to make with their doctors,” Richards said. “Politicians in Missouri pushed this bill through in the dead of night, over the objections of the people they’re supposed to represent, and we’re grateful that Governor Nixon vetoed it.”
She noted that reproductive-rights supporters had camped out on the state Capitol’s steps for 72 hours during the last week of the legislative session in hopes of dissuading lawmakers from passing the bill.
Could be marquee issue during veto session
Others supporters and opponents of the 72-hour waiting period also weighed in, signaling the significance that both sides placed on the legislation.
Former St. Charles County Executive Joe Ortwerth, who now heads the conservative Missouri Family Policy Council, said the aim of the bill was to ensure "that a woman considering abortion has sufficient time to evaluate accurate medical information concerning the abortion procedure. Abortion is a life-changing decision for a woman and her child, and she deserves the opportunity to fully consider the nature and risks of abortion, and alternatives to the abortion procedure. This legislation also furthers a woman's freedom to make an independent choice about abortion free from coercion from boyfriends, parents, or sexual predators."
But the ACLU of Missouri disputed that claim.
“This bill isn’t about helping women,” said ACLU of Missouri Executive Director Jeffrey Mittman. “This legislation is simply further intrusion by politicians into a woman’s private medical decisions. Governor Nixon deserves our thanks for continuing to focus on important issues such as jobs and the economy, unlike legislators who insist on wasting time and money pursuing their own extreme political agendas. Governor Nixon’s veto will help protect the health of women in Missouri.”