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Missouri Republicans override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of 72-hour abortion waiting period

Abortion-rights supporters Dina van der Zalm (right) and Allyson Junker stood on the steps of the Missouri Capitol on Wednesday in Jefferson City as state lawmakers in a special session considered whether to override a veto by Gov. Jay Nixon of legislation requiring a 72-hour waiting period for abortions, one of the longest mandatory delays in the nation. The Missouri Senate late Wednesday turned to a rarely-used procedural move to kill a filibuster, forcing into law the waiting period.
Abortion-rights supporters Dina van der Zalm (right) and Allyson Junker stood on the steps of the Missouri Capitol on Wednesday in Jefferson City as state lawmakers in a special session considered whether to override a veto by Gov. Jay Nixon of legislation requiring a 72-hour waiting period for abortions, one of the longest mandatory delays in the nation. The Missouri Senate late Wednesday turned to a rarely-used procedural move to kill a filibuster, forcing into law the waiting period. AP

Updated at 11:43 p.m.

JEFFERSON CITY Missouri Republicans made history late Wednesday night, turning to a rarely-used procedural move to kill a filibuster and force into law a bill tripling the waiting period to have an abortion.

Senate Minority Leader Jolie Justus, a Kansas City Democrat, led a filibuster of the bill that requires women to wait 72-hours after consulting a doctor before having an abortion. The current waiting period is 24 hours. There is no exception for victims of rape or incest.

After two hours of discussion, Republicans voted to cut off debate and force a vote. It then passed on a party-line vote, overriding Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto.

“Another 48 hours could very well be the difference between a life saved and a life ended,” said Sen. David Sater, a Republican who sponsored the bill. “Knowing that a life is at stake, this is the least we can do for these children.”

Missouri's new law will be the second most-stringent behind South Dakota, where its 72-hour wait can sometimes extend even longer because weekends and holidays are not counted. Utah is the only other state with a 72-hour delay, but it grants exceptions for rape, incest and other circumstances.

“Tonight’s vote represents the latest intrusion of politicians into a woman’s private medical decisions,” ACLU of Missouri Executive Director Jeffrey Mittman said. “This legislation was never about helping women, but instead is a way for some politicians in Jefferson City to pursue their own political agendas. It’s shameful and it risks women’s health.”

That last time Republicans cut off debate in the Senate was in 2007 on a pair of bills -- one regarding abortion and another making English the state’s official language.

Updated at 9:22 p.m.

JEFFERSON CITY One of the nation’s strictest abortion laws is one step closer to becoming reality in Missouri, with the state House voting to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill tripling the waiting period for a woman seeking an abortion.

The bill now heads to the Senate, where Democratic Sen. Jolie Justus of Kansas City has promised a filibuster. If passed, the bill would require women to wait 72 hours after consulting a doctor before having an abortion. The current waiting period is 24 hours.

That would put Missouri’s waiting period second only to South Dakota in length, where the waiting period can extend even longer than 72 hours because it doesn’t count weekends or holidays.

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the legislation earlier this year, calling it “extreme and disrespectful” to women because it contains no exception for cases of rape or incest. House Democrats echoed his concerns Wednesday, saying the bill interfered in the medical decisions of women.

“This is designed to demean and shame a woman to get her to change her mind,” said Rep. Judy Morgan, a Kansas City Democrat.

Rep. Kevin Elmer, a Republican from Nixa who sponsored the bill, argued that children conceived in rape or incest deserve protection.

“I value life at all cost,” he said.

Rep. Kathie Conway, a Republican from St. Charles, said the bill would not prevent a woman from having an abortion. It would only ensure the woman have more time to contemplate whether that’s the choice she should make.

Critics of the legislation say the waiting period represents an unconstitutional obstacle for women seeking to have a legal medical procedure. That’s especially true for low-income women, they argue, since the only Missouri facility that performs elective abortions is in St. Louis, meaning travel and hotel costs could prove daunting.

Conway pointed out that abortions are performed just across the Missouri state line in clinics in Overland Park and Granite City, Ill. — 15 minutes from St. Louis.

The 72-hour waiting period would not apply to those clinics.

“If it cannot wait, go across the river where it can happen tomorrow,” Conway said.

Updated at 5:54 p.m.

The Missouri Senate voted Wednesday evening to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill that would effectively void Kansas City’s recently passed ban on the open carry of firearms.

After about an hour of debate, the Senate vote 23 to 8 override the veto. The bill must now go to the House, where an override is widely expected.

The legislation faced fierce opposition from Democrats, especially Senate Minority Leader Jolie Justus, who said that she feared it would hurt Kansas City’s efforts to combat gun violence.

"The reality is in Kansas City and St. Louis we are seeing gun violence that is top in the nation," said Justus, a Kansas City Democrat. "Adding guns, even to law abiding citizens, for them to openly brandish them in the city that will not help us reduce gun violence."

Sen. Will Kraus, a Lee’s Summit Republican who sponsored the legislation, said the issue was whether local governments should be allowed to restrict someone’s constitutional rights. The legislation mandates a person have a concealed carry permit in order to legally openly carry, Kraus said. That means they would have to go through gun training needed to get that permit.

"These individuals have been qualified with their weapons, and I believe they should have the right to open carry," he said. "We want to protect their rights."

Kansas City Mayor Sly James made fighting off the override his biggest priority of the annual veto session that started Wednesday morning. In addition to prohibiting local governments from banning open carry of a firearm, it also reduces the age requirement for a conceal carry permit to 19 from 21 and allows specially trained teachers to carry concealed guns in public schools.

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Lawmakers return to the state Capitol today to attempt to override an historic number of Gov. Jay Nixon’s vetoes, with the most stark battle lines drawn over abortion and Missouri’s budget.

Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed 33 bills and more than 130 budget items. But Republicans control 23 seats in the Senate and 110 in the House, enough in both chambers to override any veto.

Legislation vetoed by Nixon that would triple the waiting time in Missouri for a woman to have an abortion -- from 24 hours to 72 hours -- is expected to inspire the most heated debate. The bill includes no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. That would make Missouri’s law the second most stringent behind South Dakota, where its 72-hour wait can sometimes extend even longer because weekends and holidays are not counted.

Utah is the only other state with a 72-hour delay, but it grants exceptions for rape, incest and other circumstances.

Democrats in the Senate are considering a filibuster, and supporters on both sides of the issue will rally in the Capitol today. Abortion rights supporters plan to gather at 11 a.m. outside the Capitol, while anti-abortion groups plan to rally at noon in the rotunda.

Republicans are also hoping to override 50 of Nixon’s budget vetoes, reinstating $40 million in spending on items ranging from reading instruction in struggling school districts to $160,000 to equip water patrol boats with defibrillators.

Nixon has said that although many of the items he vetoed are worthwhile, the state currently can’t afford them. GOP leaders counter that Nixon set the wrong priorities with his vetoes.

Also on the agenda this week are bills prohibiting local governments from banning the open carry of firearms, exempting electronic cigarettes from state tobacco taxes and regulations and granting tax breaks for certain businesses.

With the shear number of vetoes being considered, veto session is likely to last longer than one day. That could mean trouble for some override attempts, as Republican Sen. David Pearce of Warrensburg has said he must leave the Capitol for a family commitment after today.

Without Pearce, Republicans would no longer have a veto-proof majority in the Senate.

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