Taking a cue from former Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis (D), hundreds of Missourians are in the midst of a 72-hour "women's filibuster" of a state bill that would triple the mandatory waiting period before an abortion.
Starting at 2 p.m. on Monday, protesters have been standing on the steps of the Missouri Capitol day and night, in wind and rainstorms, telling their abortion stories and voicing their opposition to the proposed legislation. The protest harkens back to Davis' famous 11-hour filibuster of a sweeping anti-abortion bill in Texas last June, during which women's health advocates from around the state packed the state Capitol.
The GOP-controlled Missouri House and Senate have already passed House Bill 1307, which requires women to wait three days after a consultation with a physician and watch a video about abortion before being able to have the procedure. There is only one abortion clinic in the state, which means women would have to travel up to 300 miles twice in one week in order to comply with the law. The House approved the measure Wednesday and sent the bill to Gov. Jay Nixon (D), who has not said whether he'll sign it, according to The Associated Press.
Reproductive rights advocates strongly oppose the bill because it forces women to jump through so many medically unnecessary hoops in order to have a legal procedure. The bill has no exceptions for rape and incest victims or severe fetal anomalies. Liz Read-Katz, a stay-at-home mother from Columbia, Missouri, kicked off the protest by sharing the story of having an abortion after she and her husband learned that their baby had serious medical problems and would not survive after birth.
“This was the hardest and saddest decision I have ever made, but one that I made because it was in my best interest, my family's best interest, and because I loved my baby so much I couldn't stand the thought of her being born in pain and agony and to only ever see the walls of a hospital," she said. "An additional 72-hour wait, extra ultrasounds, mandatory videos would not have changed my mind, they would have just caused me more pain than I was already going through."
Republican supporters of the bill argue that the legislation is intended to give women more of a chance to change their minds before having the procedure. The sponsor of the bill, State Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger (R), compared the decision to buying a car.
“In making a decision to buy a car, I put research in there to find out what to do," he told colleagues at a hearing on the bill in April.
The mandatory waiting period bill is only one of more than 30 anti-abortion bills proposed in the Missouri Legislature this session. Another bill the House passed, which the Senate is currently considering, would allow medical professionals to deny abortion care or emergency contraception to women based on moral objections, even if the woman is a victim of rape.
Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones (R) told a local radio station that he and his colleagues are focusing on restricting abortion in order to preserve the taxpaying population. "[If] we were to choose the opposite extreme and the state were not to choose to protect life, well eventually the state would run out of citizens, it would run out of taxpayers, and the state would cease to exist," he said.
The citizen "filibuster" ends at 2 p.m. on Thursday, but Ryann Summerford, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri, said women's health advocates will continue to pressure Nixon to veto the bill when it comes to his desk. "We are calling for the governor to stand firm with women, so they can make their own medical decisions," she told The Huffington Post, "including the decision of whether to have an abortion with the consultation of their doctor."
This article has been updated to include the House vote.