There are few issues more polarizing in American politics than abortion. A person’s stance on the topic is extremely personal; it gets at the heart of what one believes about the sanctity of life, the rights of unborn children, and ultimately, faith. Since Roe vs. Wade, and even before that, abortion is a subject our nation has wrestled with for decades. And will continue to.
I’m pro-life. I believe that life begins at conception. However, I also respect that the procedure is legal under federal law. Barring action from the U.S. Supreme Court, that is unlikely to change in the near future. No state law can supersede that judicial precedent.
There is nothing preventing us as state legislators, though, from ensuring these procedures are carried out safely in the state and protecting the health of the women who have them. Unfortunately, these measures are often viewed as attacks on the right of women to have an abortion. They’re not. We regulate medical procedures in Missouri all the time. Abortions should be treated no differently.
This year, the Senate approved House Bill 1307, which would increase Missouri’s current 24-hour waiting period for abortions to 72 hours. The bill in no way restricts a woman’s right to receive an abortion. It only provides more time for women to consider what is a permanent decision.
Under our current 24-hour waiting period, a woman must receive information about the development of her unborn child and about the methods and risks of abortion. A mother also receives information about adoption and has the opportunity to view an ultrasound and hear the heartbeat of her child. We want women to have informed consent and the time for deliberate and careful consideration. House Bill 1307 would just give them an additional 48 hours to weigh the decision.
During the committee hearing on the legislation, members heard from various women who had abortions in the past, only to later regret the decision. One said during testimony, “No one told me the risks. I didn’t have time to think about it. Twenty-four hours is not enough time.” The woman now works at a pregnancy resource center with women who find themselves in the same situation.
There are few regrets heavier to carry than that of what could have been. That is an incredible burden, and only highlights how life-altering a decision of this magnitude can be. This is an irreversible procedure that eliminates a life. It’s not the kind of choice you just sleep on for a night.
Courts have also consistently upheld laws that contain waiting periods, affirming that a wait before an abortion is not unreasonable. In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Pennsylvania’s 24-hour waiting period law. The court found it is important to give a woman sufficient time to think about her decision. More than half the states now have 24-hour waiting periods. Utah and South Dakota have 72-hour waiting periods, with Alabama considering extending its as well.
This week, we sent to the governor House Bill 1307. It is my hope he signs the legislation. There were more than 9,000 abortions performed in this state in 2012 alone. That is a tragedy, and a sign we need to do more to ensure women know they have other options, and they’re fully aware of the consequences and possible risks of an abortion. It is my hope this measure will give women more time to consider a decision that affects not only themselves, but the life of the unborn child.
And with that, the 2014 legislative session comes to a close. We will officially adjourn at 6 p.m. on Friday night. We will return briefly in September for the annual veto session, but for the most part, the legislative work for the year is finished. It has been an honor to serve you in the Capitol. Even though we now enter the interim months, please don’t hesitate to contact me with your questions and concerns.
I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions, and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write me at Wayne Wallingford, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Jefferson City, MO 65101, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.senate.mo.gov/wallingford.