Missouri now requires all women to receive counseling and wait at least 72 hours prior to undergoing an abortion procedure. The law, which was passed after the state legislature overturned Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto, will go into effect next month.
The new law is a problem for several reasons, primarily because it makes no exceptions for victims of rape or incest, unlike a similar law in Utah. The biggest problem with the law, however, is almost tragically parallel to the scenario that rose to the public’s attention in Ferguson a few weeks ago: the people in charge do not accurately represent the population.
Only 38 out of 160 Missouri state representatives are women. These representatives are split evenly down the party line, with 19 members each for the Republicans and Democrats. Overall, 108 of House members are Republican. Only five out of 32 active state senators are women, and all five are Democrats. The Senate has 23 Republican members overall.
The amount of Republicans in the legislative body is significant because the vetoing governor is a Democrat, but also because of the political weight abortion carries amongst the GOP. Despite its federal classification as a legal medical procedure, a status upheld by the Supreme Court with Roe v. Wade in 1973, abortion has become a partisan issue. Democrats are pro-choice, Republicans are pro-life. Yet abortion is a reality, and making it more difficult for women who need or elect to undergo the procedure should not be the business of those with a religious or political agenda.
This new law, however, serves virtually no purpose other than to make it more difficult for women. Missouri has only one elective abortion clinic left, and it’s located in St. Louis. The city, although it’s Missouri’s largest, is on the border and therefore geographically distant from the rest of the state. Travel and time away from home could quickly become costly for Missouri women in the coming months. The state already prohibits insurance coverage for the procedure, making the entire process an unnecessary burden on the poor. Missouri’s law is just another example of injustice masquerading as public policy, a continually-occurring phenomenon that needs to be scrutinized by both the people and the federal government more closely.