Choice Cuts

Jewish Light Editorial

• Nullify federal gun-control laws? Sure

• Oppose universal health care and medical assistance to the poor and needy? Check

• Ensure permissible discrimination against gay couples? Not a problem

• Protect, respect and improve life for women in Missouri? Not so much.

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But you probably could have guessed that. The white, male-centric Missouri legislature continues its longstanding attack on the rights of women.

About 30 bills have been introduced with the intent of restricting reproductive rights in Missouri. One getting the most attention, which has already passed the House and been debated in the Senate, would extend the waiting period before an abortion to 72 hours – Missouri would be only the third state to have such a requirement, along with Utah and South Dakota – and would direct the state health department to create a video and force women to watch it prior to having the procedure.

This is but one of the many bills presented by legislators to target women’s rights in Missouri. Topics include such things as: increasing parental-notification requirements for minors having an abortion; state inspections for abortion providers going from once a year to four times; and issuing tax credits for abortion-alternative services.

The upshot is that in a state where legislators purport to be interested in getting the government off the backs of citizens – with bills to limit gun control and health care expansion, and proposals that would permit discrimination against LGBT individuals based on religious grounds – interfering with a woman’s relationship with her physician seems to trump freedom of personal choice.

The video is particularly emblematic of the disrespect shown to women by legislators. Even though the video is to contain the same information provided orally and in writing to patients now, proponents of the bill, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “said it was simply another tool.”

“To which,” the Post-Dispatch reported, “Rep. Margo McNeil (D-Florissant), asked if women would be arrested if they closed their eyes during the video. ‘It’s insulting,’ she said.”

The proposed four-times-a-year inspection bill is being pushed in the Senate by Sen. Wayne Wallingford, a Republican from Cape Girardeau. Claiming health reasons for this bill, he said in the same Post-Dispatch article, “We want to make sure that the woman’s health is not in danger. I don’t believe my bills restrict (abortion).”

Of course they do. If any of Wallingford’s friends who are businesspeople were told they needed to have their businesses inspected quarterly, would they view it as an imposition? Would Wallingford buck their preferences? That’s a rhetorical question, of course.

Remember, this is the same state legislator who was so concerned with personal freedom that he introduced a bill that would justify discriminatory conduct against LGBT community members as long as there was a religious reason for it. (Light Publisher/CEO Larry Levin wrote about it in a March 5 commentary entitled “Using religion as a sword of intolerance.” )

So in two bills, Wallingford has managed to use religion as a sword to restrict abortion and as a shield to protect discriminators. The losers? Women and the LGBT community.

If Missouri legislators were so concerned about women and their choices, they might think about providing them with the economic tools to survive and thrive. In the Center for American Progress’ 2013 report on the “State of Women in America,” Missouri came out dismally on the gender scale (again). And on economic measures, the status of Missouri women was given a D+ grade and ranked 39th out of the 50 states.

But it’s not about concern for women, their health, their well-being or their anything. It’s about a hard-core religious agenda that is not shared across American society. Most polls that are administered by independent sources (those not in the values fight) show that Americans generally think safe abortions should be lawful, at least in the first trimester.

“I’m for life, not death,” Senate floor leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin, was quoted as saying to reporters regarding the debate of the House-approved, 72-hour waiting bill. Which we take to mean he looks at everyone who doesn’t support his agenda as somehow morally deficient.

We don’t think we’re morally deficient for supporting the reproductive rights of women and allowing these choices to be made by individuals in consultation with their medical professionals. 

As long as our state’s legislators demonstrate that they’re not taking seriously and with the requisite respect the lives, equal rights and medical well-being of Missouri women, we’re standing pat in our opposition to these inappropriate and vastly overreaching bills.