September 29, 2014 — Officials at the only abortion clinic in Missouri and those from neighboring states anticipate increased barriers for women seeking abortions after enactment of a new state law (HR 1307) requiring a 72-hour mandatory delay before the procedure, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
The Missouri law, which takes effect on Oct. 10, triples the state's current mandatory delay of 24 hours and does not allow exceptions in cases of rape or incest (Liss, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 9/25). Women with medical emergencies are exempt under the 24-hour mandatory delay and will continue to be exempt under the new legislation.
The law also includes a provision that will require the state to revert to the 24-hour delay if a court strikes down the 72-hour delay (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/11).
Only One Abortion Clinic in Missouri
Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri operates the sole abortion clinic in the state, in St. Louis (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 9/25). The 72-hour mandatory delay means that patients, who travel an average of almost 100 miles to get to the St. Louis clinic, will either have to make two trips or stay in the city for multiple nights in order to receive both the required consultation appointment and the procedure during the same trip, according to M'Evie Mead, director of statewide organizing for Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/11).
Paula Gianino -- president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates, the political arm of PPSLR -- said, "We do not anticipate fewer women" seeking abortions once the law goes into effect, "but we do expect increases in later abortion." Gianino added, "This is what has occurred in other states after longer waiting periods. For some women, 72 hours may take away their ability to have a legal abortion at our facility."
Illinois, Iowa and Tennessee are the only states out of the eight that border Missouri that do not have a mandatory delay period for women ages 18 or older, according to the Post-Dispatch.
Erin King -- associate medical director at Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, Ill., which is located about 15 minutes from downtown St. Louis -- said that while she is unsure if her clinic will see an increased volume of patients, the clinic is "prepared to handle women [who] come over the river from Missouri because of the restrictions" and is "able to accommodate some extra volume." She added that if the volume of patients becomes "a lot higher," the clinic would hire additional staff members.
Likewise, Julie Burkhart -- director of South Wind Women's Center in Wichita, Kan., about three hours from Missouri's western border -- said that while the clinic is not preparing for an influx of patients, it "would definitely consider" adding additional staff members if needed. She added that the new Missouri law "is going to be a hardship for women and it's clear that this law is meant to do nothing but block access when it comes to abortion care." Kansas requires a 24-hour delay before abortions.
Meanwhile, antiabortion-rights groups said the law was not meant to lead more women to seek abortions out of state. Campaign Life Missouri lobbyist Samuel Lee said, "To have a woman go out of state to me, if that's what the law ends up doing ... that doesn't accomplish a whole lot because she's still getting the abortion and that's a tragedy" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 9/25).