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Missouri Governor Finds 72-Hour Abortion Wait Insulting, Paternalistic, Dangerous

South Dakota law requires women to wait 72 hoursand sometimes longer—to have an abortion. Only Utah forces women to delay their health care decisions that long.

Missouri tried to become the third state to impose a 72-hour abortion-waiting period on women. After years defending abortion restrictions and punting on his state legislature's war on women, Governor Jay Nixon finally drew the line and vetoed this abortion bill. Here's how Governor Nixon describes a 72-hour waiting period not quite as awful as South Dakota's:

[The bill] is a disrespectful measure that would unnecessarily prolong the suffering of rape and incest victims and jeopardize the health and wellbeing of women.

...I cannot condone the absence of an exceptoin for rape and incest in [the bill]. This glaring omission is wholly insensitive to women who find themselves in horrific circumstances, and demonstrates a callous disregard for their wellbeing. It victimizes these women by prolonging their grief and their nightmare [Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, veto message, 2014.07.02].

South Dakota's 72-hour waiting period includes no exception for rape or incest. It additionally requires women to talk about their unwanted pregnancy with antagonistic strangers at unreliable anti-abortion propaganda centers, a forced "counseling" session that likely exacerbates the victimization Governor Nixon says no government should impose.

Governor Nixon also smells big-government sexism in this bill:

Underlying this bill, and the expansion of the governmental interference it would mandate, is a paternalistic presumption that rape and incest victims are somehow unable to grasp the horror that has befallen them, and that government must force them to take more time to come to grips with their plight. That misplaced paternalism defies logic [Nixon, 2014.07.02].

Such logic applies to all women, not just crime victims: South Dakota's 72-hour waiting period, plus extensions for weekends and holidays, assumes that all women are too stupid to make their own decisions. (Remember: South Dakota forces no man to wait for a medical procedure.)

Governor Nixon still tolerates Missouri's 24-hour government intrusion on women's autonomy, but he says extending that waiting period is nothing but insulting cruelty:

Lengthening the mandate to "at least" 72 hours 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 [Nixon, 2014.07.02].

South Dakota imposes exactly that emotional and financial hardship on women seeking abortions, and not out of compassion.

Speaking of compassion, making women wait longer for abortions puts their health at greater risk:

A mandate that moves the procedure to a time later in a pregnancy increases the risk of complications. Lengthening the mandated delay is in contravention of sound medical advice and forces government even further into the relationship between the physician and the woman. A woman's health could be unnecessarily jeopardized by extending the mandatory delay [Nixon, 2014.07.02].

Governor Nixon's veto of a 72-hour waiting period for abortion neatly summarizes every point Susan Wismer, Corinna Robinson, and every other woman running for statewide office in South Dakota needs to make about the Republican war on women. South Dakota's abortion law insults women's intelligence, puts government between women and their doctors, and puts women at greater risk of injury and death.


  1. Bill Dithmer 2014.07.07


    The Blindman

  2. Taunia 2014.07.07

    Don't get too excited. This veto is likely to be overridden at the MO Legislature's September veto session.

  3. Steve Sibson 2014.07.07

    "(Remember: South Dakota forces no man to wait for a medical procedure.)"

    For those who have been asking me about the meaning of "Neo-Marxism". Cory just made a Neo-Marxist statement.

  4. WestRiver 2014.07.07

    I beg to differ on a few points here Cory.

    1) You're correct, it isn't mandatory that a man wait to have a vasectomy, a testicle removed, his prostate removed or sectioned; but, I can almost guarantee you that he will find after visiting with any reputable Dr. they are going to ask him to go home and think about it, ask and take into consideration how many children the man has, and ask about why he is making the decision to make sure he mentally stable and able to make the decision and even then if the Dr. doesn't agree, they aren't going to perform the procedure
    2) "Speaking of compassion, making women wait longer for abortions puts their health at greater risk" I don't think quoting a Governor who has a law degree and not a medical degree as a relevant and reliable source on health care risk would be considered a reputable source for empirical medical reference or your article; but it seems this Governor likes to make a lot of health care decisions
    3--I think a righteous argument could be made that the decision to abort is a B.I.G. decision. There are a lot of factors in making the decision and it shouldn't be made abruptly by anyone. In Missouri and most states, there's a 10-day waiting period before singing a mortgage note, a 3 day waiting period for you to renege on a car loan, etc. I would think that waiting 72 hours for an abortion could also help some people who are in a very emotional state to reconcile their feelings and make a more informed decision.

  5. mike from iowa 2014.07.07

    Patently obvious that wingnuts defy logic.

  6. Rorschach 2014.07.07

    The vast majority of pro choice people I know are not in favor of abortions. They are for limited government and individual liberty. Time for liberty-minded, small government legislators to sponsor a bill exempting victims of rape and incest from both the 72 hour waiting period and the forced Alpha Center indoctrination.

  7. Tim 2014.07.07

    "They are for limited government and individual liberty."

    Ror, to bad that individual liberty doesn't include a womans right to choose what she does with her own body. There's that right wing hypocrisy thing again.

  8. MJL 2014.07.07

    West River:

    You assume that all women discovered they were pregnant at a doctor's office and signed up for an abortion for the next hour. There are many women that I am sure agonize over the decision. I have known many men that said they wanted to get a vasectomy and the doctor set up the appointment. There was no forced counseling by non-medical individuals.

    You also compare giving life-saving treatment to first responders to forcing a woman to have access to a medical treatment. Would you rather that first responders tell someone suffering an overdose that they need to wait 72 hours (longer if it was a Friday) before he/she can have medicine to save his/her life?

  9. WestRiver 2014.07.07

    No, I don't assume anything. I also don't assume that all the girls/women who get pregnant and think about having an abortion know what they are going through to achieve that end.
    I also don't understand why it's a problem to have a consultation. I know that if you have a minor surgery not only do they consult with you about the procedure you have to sign a ton of paperwork stating that you understand the procedure, the things that could go wrong, etc. Why is it threatening or demeaning to a girl/woman to have to have a consultation?
    My point to CAH was that it wasn't wise to quote a lawyer as a medical professional. And yes, I agree it's good idea to have a life-saving treatment available to those who are going to be first responders, as long as they've had training and consulted with medical professionals on how to use it.

  10. WestRiver 2014.07.07


    P.S. I must also add that in my opinion, those who should have access to life-saving treatment should be those who are in a medically-related position such as EMT, paramedic, etc. I wouldn't put the medication in the hand of a police officer any more than I'd put a gun in an EMT's

  11. bearcreekbat 2014.07.07

    WestRiver asks "Why is it threatening or demeaning to a girl/woman to have to have a consultation?"

    Wouldn't the more accurate question be "Why is it threatening or demeaning to a girl/woman to have a specific law that requires them to have a consultation against their choice and will, and which results in the complete denial of a safe medical treatment until they obey this unwanted law?"

  12. Roger Cornelius 2014.07.07

    Just a couple of questions for those in the know:

    Are abortions performed anywhere in South Dakota?

    Have there ever been a legal challenge to the 72 hour waiting period?

    Has there ever been a legal challenge to the legality of forcing women into counseling at the Alpha Center?

  13. Douglas Wiken 2014.07.07

    Forced consultation seems like a heck of an idea for legislators before they vote for wingnut idiocy. Should they be required to consult with government professors, Cory Heidelberger political consultant/advisor, their priests or pastors, their old school teachers, their overworked bar tender...or just any man in the street who hangs up a sign that says "Consultant", or the guru on the top of a mountain?

    Sauce for the goose and sauce for the gander.

  14. ck 2014.07.07


    As far as I know, Planned Parenthood in Sioux Falls is the only provider in the state. Planned Parenthood challenged the ban...but later dropped it.

    I don't know anything about Alpha Center....

  15. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.07.07

    The PP health clinic in Sioux Falls does not offer abortions.

    I think the point about waiting periods is all about personal autonomy. If a doctor urges a patient to take time to think over a decision, that's fine. But if the doctor is forced to tell her medical things that are not true, and she's also compelled by law to wait 72 hours before having a procedure -- what we have is demeaning, paternalistic crap!

    West River, I believe your comment was made with the best of intentions, but women's context matters.

    You've lived your life autonomously, following a history of freedom that you are understandably accustomed to. Your autonomy goes back several hundred years. You've always been expected and encouraged to play sports, take leadership positions, and enjoy extraordinary privileges that are so engrained in our culture as to be completely unremarkable.

    That's not us WR. We have had to fight for every thing we've gotten. We've had to ask ASK to be Allowed to play basketball. We've only been Allowed to vote for Less Than 100 years. We've only been Allowed to sign contracts without our husband's permission for Less Than 100 years.

    The world looks much differently to us than it does to you. When you look at a law that limits our position as free, autonomous human beings, you think about how it might feel to you. Do you understand why that's not appropriate? Can you see why your response doesn't fit?

    Thanks for listening WR.

  16. Bill Dithmer 2014.07.08

    "Speaking of compassion, making women wait longer for abortions puts their health at greater risk" I don't think quoting a Governor who has a law degree and not a medical degree as a relevant and reliable source on health care risk"

    I agree completely. Then why force a woman to visit Alpha Center? Surely the same reasoning must apply.

    Alpha has parlayed, screwed, and lied its way to several millions of the american tax dollars. And yet the Unruh's persist in sticking their noses between the legs of every woman that has already made a very difficult decision.

    Mrs Unruh had an abortion, she now belives that when she removed that clump of cells that she committed murder. Let's see here, Mrs Unruh exercised her right to obtain a legal procedure but because she herself wasnt mentally stable at the time wants us to believe that somehow she has been given great insight into what other women want or need. WTF

    " I would think that waiting 72 hours for an abortion could also help some people who are in a very emotional state to reconcile their feelings and make a more informed decision."

    Isn't that just code for trying to stop a woman from having an abortion no matter what?

    The Unruh's are igotistical controlling money whores. How they continue to be power players in South Dakota is beyond me. When you get caught buying, selling, or who knows what to babies, and you still have this big a say in what happens to the women of the state, something stinks. Me thinks it's the public feedlot called Alpha Center.

    The Blindman

  17. larry kurtz 2014.07.08

    “Regulations that deal with greenhouse gas emissions, carbon, that sort of thing, and an attempt, literally, to put coal-fired power plants out of business, and of course, in the middle of the country, at least in South Dakota, we get a lot of our electricity from coal-fired power,” said Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota).

    “Redefined navigable streams under the waters of the U.S., whether it’s saying that kids under 16 years old can’t handle certain pesticides on farms, regular pesticides that have always been used, and to tell us, indirectly trying to implement these child farm-labor laws, that’s overstepping their bounds,” said Rep. Jason Smith (R-Missouri).

  18. ck 2014.07.08

    Planned Parenthood does offer abortion services in Sioux Falls. They are the only one in the state doing so.

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.07.08

    Hey, WestRiver! on your #1, if you assure me that doctors will counsel their male patients in such a responsible fashion, then why do we need a law ensuring that doctors behave so responsibly with female patients? South Dakota's law is sexist, in that it distrusts and punishes women in ways it does not distrust and punish men.

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.07.08

    On your #2: heck, I'm not a lawyer or a doctor, so I guess I've got nothing... except the ability to provide the citations to the medical literature that Governor Nixon could have included to support his statement that making women wait longer for abortions increases the risk of complications:

    "The risk of death associated with abortion increases with the length of pregnancy, from one death for every one million abortions at or before eight weeks to one per 29,000 at 16–20 weeks—and one per 11,000 at 21 weeks or later" [Guttmacher Institute, citing Bartlett LA et al., Risk factors for legal induced abortion-related mortality in the United States, Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2004, 103(4):729–737.].

  21. MJL 2014.07.08

    I think a person that is need of a blood transfusion should be forced to wait 72 hours and receive consoling from a group supported and run by the Jehovah Witness church about all the bloodless treatment option that exist.

  22. Douglas Wiken 2014.07.08

    My guess is that an amendment to the SD Constitution banning any regulation of abortions or any legislation designed to hinder abortions in any way would pass.

  23. mike from iowa 2014.07.08

    Westriver,would you agree that having legislators who are in no way connected to health issues are the best arbiters of what women's reproductive issues are? They aren't doctors but they play them in legislating women's lives. Would you agree that the bible gives sound medical advice?

  24. bearcreekbat 2014.07.08

    The historical context described in Deb's post is very important in this debate. Thanks Deb!

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