Abortion Waiting Periods Are an Insult to Women

Speaker Rep. Timothy Jones, R-Eureka, points to a member for more debate on House Bill 253 during special session at the Miss
Speaker Rep. Timothy Jones, R-Eureka, points to a member for more debate on House Bill 253 during special session at the Missouri State Capital in Jefferson City, Mo., Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013. The House failed to override the governors' veto of the bill. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Do right-wingers believe women need extra time to think about important decisions because they are: a) emotional, b) easily distracted, or c) old-fashioned dumb. Oh, you think it's all of the above? Could be. Specifically, I'm thinking about what happened this week in the Show Me State.

Missouri's state legislature passed a bill requiring a woman to wait 72 hours from the time of her initial medical consultation to have an abortion (current law mandates a 24-hour waiting period). Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, has hinted he will veto the measure (supporters are one vote shy in the Senate of an override), stating:

"It is clear that by failing to include an exception for rape and incest, this extreme proposal would separate Missouri from all but one other state in the nation. I have profound concerns about its impact on women and especially the victims of these heinous crimes."

Beyond Nixon's limited criticisms, this particular bill is part of a larger push in many states to chip -- or more like hammer -- away at reproductive freedom (South Dakota and Utah already have 72-hour waiting periods, for example). This isn't even the only anti-choice bill to get passed this week in one of our states. These laws are a travesty and a tragedy for the people who end up unable to exercise the most basic of rights, control over their own bodies, because of the unnecessary obstacles placed in front of them.

What I want to focus on here is the incredible condescension toward women expressed by supporters of these kinds of bills. The Missouri bill's sponsor in the State Assembly, Rep. Kevin Elmer, demonstrated what he thinks about the state's women when he offered up his wisdom on the matter:

"This bill is a way to give a potential mother some additional time to think about this life-altering decision and to talk to family and friends who can help provide support during what is undoubtedly a difficult and emotional time," said Elmer, (R-Nixa). "This bill is really an effort to balance the rights of the mother with the rights of 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."

Deep breath, everyone. I know, believe me. But let's take Mr. Elmer's approach apart with cool, calm logic. See, Mr. Elmer believes that lots of women are morons. He really does. These moronic women just go off willy-nilly to see a doctor and -- without thinking about it (hence the need for "more thought") -- just blam, have an abortion. And, yes, Missouri already had a 24-hour waiting period but, you see, some women are so moronic, so stupid, that it takes even longer for them to come out of whatever fog they are in due to experiencing, in Elmer's words, an "emotional time." And certainly "emotional" isn't code for "the thing that makes women stupid, and, in particular, stupider than men." Nah.

For another perspective on the attitude toward women expressed in this bill, we have Missouri State Rep. Judy Morgan, who noted that women are already thinking deeply about these decisions and that the bill, by suggesting otherwise, does nothing but "demean and shame a woman in an effort to change her mind." And that's what this really is about.

State Rep. Gina Mitten also reminds us that the only place in the state to get an abortion is St. Louis, so for many women that means either multiple nights away from home, which costs money, or multiple trips to the city from perhaps hours away, which costs more money. The bill will thus have an even greater impact on poor women.

So let's stop, Kevin Elmers of the world, with your condescending malarkey. I don't know whether you actually believe what you're saying about women and their unthinking, emotional, non-male like brains. What you really want to do is ban abortions. You know it, and I know it. But you can't do it, yet, thanks to Roe v. Wade. You can, however, do things that make it much harder for a woman, especially one without a lot of money, to get one. Things like ensure most or even all the clinics in a state have to close thanks to regulations that have no medical justification, and others, such TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws.

We know what these laws are about, and we know what the thinking is behind them. If we believe that women deserve better, that they should be able to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed rights, that they can, I don't know, actually think for themselves, then in the name of Buffy Anne Summers let's get out there and fight.