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Missouri abortion feud escalates after veto of 3-day waiting period

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Julie Smith/The Jefferson City News-Tribune/AP

(Read caption) Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) speaks during a news conference at the Capitol on June 24. Governor Nixon this week vetoed a measure to extend the waiting period for women seeking an abortion from 24 hours to 72 hours, citing lack of an exception for rape victims.

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Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed legislation Wednesday that would extend the waiting period for women seeking abortions in the state from 24 to 72 hours. Republican lawmakers quickly responded with a vow to override that veto.

Governor Nixon cited several objections to the measure, which cleared the Missouri General Assembly on May 14. Among other concerns, the governor charged that the legislators displayed “callous disregard for women” by omitting any exceptions for victims of rape or incest.

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“I cannot condone the absence of an exception for rape and incest,” the governor wrote in a memo to legislators accompanying the veto. “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.”

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Sen. David Sater (R), one of the bill’s sponsors in the state Senate, responded that the governor’s exception placed a lower value on children conceived during rape or incest than on those conceived consensually.

“They’re both equal in God’s eyes. Those children are both of equal importance,” Mr. Sater said Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.

During debate over the controversial bill, Democratic senators submitted an amendment that would grant such an exception. However, the majority Republicans rejected it.

Even if the bill contained such an amendment, the governor would still have vetoed it. Nixon wrote in his statement that, in his eyes, existing laws are sufficiently comprehensive.

Under a 2006 Missouri law, a physician or a qualified professional must provide the woman seeking an abortion, in person, both verbally and in writing, certain information at least 24 hours before the procedure. That information includes color photographs depicting fetal development in two-week increments, a description of the method of termination, the name of agencies that provide alternative services, and a printed statement that “the life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.”

Extending the waiting period from one day to three “presupposes that women are unable to make up their own minds without further government intervention” and increases the risk of complications, Nixon wrote.

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State Rep. Kevin Elmer (R), another sponsor of the bill, has argued that the extension aims to balance the rights of the mother and the unborn child.

“We are not denying the mother her rights, but simply asking her to give more thought before making a decision that she may later regret,” Mr. Elmer said in a statement after the Missouri General Assembly approved the bill.

Undeterred by Nixon’s veto, Elmer said Wednesday the Republican-led legislature has “more than ample numbers to override the governor’s veto.”

The bill passed the House 111 to 39 – two more votes than needed for an override. The Senate vote of 22 to 9 fell one short of that threshold, but one Republican senator was absent.

About half of US states, including Missouri, impose a mandatory waiting period for women seeking to terminate pregnancy. The majority of those states require a 24-hour waiting period. Two states, South Dakota and Utah, require a three-day waiting period.

* This report includes material from The Associated Press.