Policy Paper

Public Policy


The Dilemma of the 72-hour Waiting Period for an Abortion

in the State of Missouri


Sarah Laughon


Professor Morris

Professor Moore

English/Political Science

Fall 2016

The Dilemma of the 72-hour Waiting Period for an Abortion in the State of Missouri


There is an issue with Missouri’s abortion procedures, more specifically the 72-hour wait to receive an abortion. Of all of the issues Americans fight for or against, abortion is a broad and  extremely controversial topic. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, abortion is defined as, “the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus”. Since 1973, when the Supreme Court legalized abortions, the debate has been climbing and has yet to cease. Currently, “50 percent of Americans now call themselves pro-choice, including 54 percent of women and 46 percent of men” (Toosi). The last time reportings of this nature was this high for pro-choice was in 2008.

There has been a rich history in how abortion came to fruition. “Until the late 1800s, women healers in Western Europe and the U.S. provided abortions and trained other women to do so, without legal prohibitions” (Schnall). As the years passed, the churches became involved, and the states slowly began to outlaw abortions; it became a crime as well as a sin, forcing women to turn to illegal abortions. Reform came in the 1960’s when women began seeking out their rights on this matter. January 22, 1973 changed the lives for many women when the U.S. Supreme Court made its ruling in Roe v. Wade, that “only a pregnant woman and her doctor have the legal right to make the decision about an abortion” (Schnall).  Through the 14th Amendment, no state shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” (Gitelson), while the fifth section states that Congress may enforce, “by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article”. Based on the 14th Amendment, it is fair to conclude that unborn children are persons under the law. For those seeking an abortion, there are several different programs. For example, Medicaid is the federal health system “for the poor, aged, blind, and disabled which provides medical, hospital, and long term care” which is funded by the federal government and state governments (Scarpelli). Those seeking an abortion can also go to clinics such as Planned Parenthood. The scholarly article, “The Postwar Medicalization Of Family Planning: Planned Parenthood’s Conservative Comic, Escape From Fear”, written by Travis Cox, describes the history of Planned Parenthood and its ideological transitions through the years. Originally, Planned Parenthood was a birth control clinic that was founded by Margaret Sanger in 1916. It was renamed in the 1940’s and became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America that it is known as today. It was at this point that there was a transition in the ideological basis of the federation. Feminism and women’s rights began to be discussed in society. In the beginning the representatives of Planned Parenthood  spent their efforts advocating for family planning. Then, as society began changing, their basis became women’s liberties and choices for personal reproductive health. They tried to steer clear of the focus that conservatives, who don’t support the clinics, put on abortions. Many also failed to realize that Planned Parenthood was an outlet for men, too. They offer many services that benefit every member of society. Planned Parenthood made strides to demonstrate the importance of equality.

Over the years, the clinics have received a lot of backlash from pro-life and socially conservative individuals. They have been accused of  illegal activities, such as selling fetal tissue, and called “child murderers”. In Missouri, there is one remaining Planned Parenthood clinic for the entire state. Planned Parenthood clinics need to be kept open, running and accessible for the sake of women’s healthcare. In the scholarly article entitled, “Local Access To A Planned Parenthood Clinic Linked To Reduced Dropout Rates”, recounts a study on how important it is to have Planned Parenthood readily available for women. This article offered statistics regarding how access to Planned Parenthood clinics affects dropout rates among young women and teens. The sample included white Americans, African Americans, and Hispanics. Their research showed that access to Planned Parenthood is linked to the success of many individuals, and those who live close to a clinic have a reduced school drop-out rate.

There is no middle ground when it comes to abortion, but we need to continue to allow woman to have a safe and healthy way to carry out this procedure. This issue is still here in this day and age and it so controversial and common. In fact, “3 out of 10 women in the U.S. have an abortion by the time they are 45 years old” (Planned Parenthood). There has been much history behind this topic, dating back to the 1800s, it is still relevant in our television and political campaign topics.

Current Policy

Missouri has its own rules and regulations on abortion making the issue more complex. The policy on waiting periods in Missouri states that there is a “72-hour waiting period for obtaining informed consent about the procedure (no exception for cases of rape or incest)” (Missouri).  This policy is inconsistent with a woman’s reproductive freedom and constitutes an undue burden for women in this situation. In the fall of 2015, Missouri, along with  Utah and South Dakota, passed legislation that established that women wanting an abortion must receive counseling, wait three days, and then return to the clinic for the procedure. “During counseling, the women are handed materials declaring that life begins at conception and, if they are 22 weeks along or further, that a fetus can feel pain” (The Atlantic). The legislature argues that putting in a waiting period will help women get all the information they need, and potentially change their minds.

Policy Actions

By decreasing the waiting period in Missouri from 72 hours to 24 hours will allow the women seeking an abortion to stay in the town of St. Louis for a shorter amount of time, saving them time, money, and an extra trip back to the same facility. Missouri only has one Planned Parenthood clinic, located at 4251 Forest Park Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63108, for the entire state. Anyone wanting a safe and legal abortion has to travel there. By decreasing the wait time down to 24 hours, women would not be required to make a three or more day journeys. It would save time and money. “Abortion rights supporters have argued that the law hampers women’s access to the procedure because they often have to travel far to have one, and the waiting period could force them to incur extra travel and lodging costs and perhaps take time off work” (Jefferson). This legislation also forces women to get counseling before making this choice, and there are not exceptions for cases of rape of incest. To change this policy, the use of social media and the internet must come into play. The media can play a key role in swaying an individual’s beliefs. Someone lacking knowledge on the subject or who doesn’t have a set opinion may simply adopt the views of the news outlets or media commentators. The media is not the only source of information, but the world is dominated by mass communication, and more and more, the political agenda is being influenced by the media. “The media wield the most influence in shaping the public agenda when the events and issues are either outside an individual’s experience or new to the society” (Gitelson 334) and nevertheless, the media plays a large role in presenting the issues at hand. The advanced technology of today’s world helps promote the media’s political views. The use of television and the internet helps political figures address the public directly.  Citizens who have done independent research or have a firm opinion to begin with are less susceptible to the influence of the media. “People with strong partisan views tend to gravitate toward sources that express the values that they already hold” (Gitelson 336). The media can sway individuals and how they form political judgments if they do not already have strong views or do not know much about the subject. Taking it a step further, policy changes can come about by writing letters to your congressmen and senators about issues you care about. Some citizens even participate in interest groups. There are many groups that come together to share a common goal or  to promote changes in legislation. Even though they usually lobby for policies, they are vastly different from political parties. Interest groups do not try to get a candidate elected, rather, they specifically focus on their own specialized area. Many people join interest groups to promote social or economic change. NARAL (National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws) is a broad interest group that was founded in 1969 to deal with abortion laws. NARAL  is comprised of three separate branches: NARAL Pro-Choice America Inc, NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, and NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC. The founder of this interest group was Betty Friedan. This interest group, “assesses the pro-abortion rights vs. pro-life composition of Congress, rating legislators according their voting records on abortion-related issues” (NARAL).  Changing the wait time to get an abortion in the state of Missouri may not seem of a large scale importance, but it can mean the world to some women and it can be done and will be done by these actions.

Policy Strength and Weaknesses

There are several points of view that can we argued on this topic. Many can argue that the waiting time doesn’t truly matter and, “… abortion opponents who supported the bill said that women who wanted the procedure done more quickly could cross the state line into Illinois or Kansas, which have no 72-hour waiting period” (Roberson). It is not simple to drop everything to go have a life changing procedure done. Women at this stage have already made up their minds about receiving an abortion, and according to research, a majority of the time, the wait time has no impact on them receiving an abortion. This issue of having a long wait time for an abortion also occurs in Utah, and according to the scholarly article, “The Longest Wait: Examining the Impact of Utah’s 72-Hour Waiting Period for Abortion”, the results are clear. Like Missouri, Utah has increased their waiting period to 72 hours and it is stated that, “…close to two-thirds (62%) reported the 72-hour wait affected them negatively in some way, including the lost wages of needing to take extra time off work (47%), increased transportation cost (30%), lost wages by family or friend(s) (27%), and having to disclose their abortion to someone they would not had told without the waiting period (33%)” (Study). In all, this study concluded that women are heavily impacted by this policy and their are several burdensome aspects to it that need to be changed for the overall benefit of women. By focusing on one major issue at a time for the state of Missouri regarding women’s reproductive rights, the citizens then can focus on other issues surrounding the state, such as the fact that there is only one Planned Parenthood clinic for the entire state.


The best solution to this issue, since Missouri only has one Planned Parenthood clinic, is to repeal the policy of the 72-hour waiting period and replace it with a more palatable 24-hour waiting period. Women will still be required to wait a day and have time to think over their decision, but it would dramatically cut her travel time and costs associated with her predicament. Also, if the individual has a job, it lets them stay at work two extra days. It is clear that there is only one real solution to helping the women who are in this predicament. By getting this policy changed, it is my hope that other states with similar laws will follow suit, thus helping even more women in the United States of America.


I believe that during the Donald Trump presidency, nothing about the wait time for abortions will be changed, but he may try and may succeed in overturning the decision for the well known court case, Roe v. Wade. “Asked where that would leave women seeking abortions, Mr. Trump, on the CBS program “60 Minutes,” said, “Well, they’ll perhaps have to go — they’ll have to go to another state” (Davis). Trump is changing his views on issues such as immigration, such as  his wall will be a fence in a few places, or deciding to “deport two million to three million immigrants he characterized as dangerous or as having criminal records, a change from his original position that he would deport all of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country” (Davis), so perhaps he may change his mind on pursuing this issue as well. Mike Pence, the future Vice President, has made serious remarks against Planned Parenthood and against abortions since he is pro-life and not in favor of abortion. Back in March, he signed a measure to ban abortions based on gender and those with genetic anomalies; which was later turned down by a federal judge.  At a town hall meeting in July he said, “We’ll see Roe vs. Wade consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs” (Jagannathan). Since Trump’s win for the presidency, over 128,000 people have donated to Planned Parenthood, many of them donating in Mike Pence’s name.

Works Cited

Cox, Travis L. “The Postwar Medicalization Of Planning: Planned Parenthood’s

Conservative Comic, Escape From Fear.” Women’s Studies In Communication 39.3 (2016): 268-288. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.


Davis, Julie Hirschfeld. “Donald Trump Appears to Soften Stance on Immigration, but Not on Abortion.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 13 Nov. 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/14/us/politics/donald-trump-twitter-white-house.html&gt;.

Gitelson, Alan R. et al. American Government: Myths and Realities. New York, NY, Oxford University Press.

Jagannathan, Meera. “People Are Donating to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence’s Name.” NY Daily News. N.p., 14 Nov. 2016. Web. 15 Nov. 2016. <http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/people-donating-planned-parenthood-mike-pence-article-1.2872920&gt;.

“Local Access To A Planned Parenthood Clinic Linked To Reduced Dropout Rates.” Perspectives On Sexual And Reproductive Health 48.3 (2016): 154-155. MEDLINE. Web. 29 Sept. 2016.

“Missouri Abortion Laws – FindLaw.” Findlaw. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2016. <http://statelaws.findlaw.com/missouri-law/missouri-abortion-laws.html&gt;.

“NARAL Pro-Choice America Fact Sheet – Research, Statistics, and History on Abortion &Amp; Human Rights.” Research Statistics and History on Abortion Human Rights, http://liveaction.org/research/naral-pro-choice-america-factsheet.

Parenthood, Planned. “Who We Are.” Who We Are, 9 Sept. 2016, https://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/who-we-are.

Roberson, Jeff. “Missouri Enacts 72-Hour Wait for Abortion – The New York Times.” N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2016.

Scarpelli, Craig. California in the American System. McGraw Hill, 2012.

Schnall, Marianne Marianne. “HISTORY OF ABORTION.” HISTORY OF ABORTION, Simon & Schuster Inc., http://www.feminist.com/resources/ourbodies/abortion.html.

“Study Results from University of Utah in the Area of Women’s Health Reported (The Longest Wait: Examining the Impact of Utah’s 72-Hour Waiting Period for Abortion).” Women’s Health Weekly 2016: Health & Wellness Resource Center. Web. 26 Nov. 2016.

The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2016. <http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/05/waiting-periods-and-the-price-of-abortion/393962/&gt;.

Toosi, Nahal. “Pro-Choice Outpolls pro-Life for First Time in 7 Years.” POLITICO, http://www.politico.com/story/2015/05/gallup-poll-pro-choice-pro-life-118406.


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