Missouri Bill Would Make Guns As Difficult to Access As Abortions

Ed. note: This post was originally published on the Community site.

One Missouri lawmaker has a novel approach to bring attention to the increasing number of abortion restrictions in her state: to make purchasing a gun just as difficult as obtaining a safe and legal abortion.

While her anti-choice congressional colleagues forge ahead in their efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, Missouri State Rep. Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis) is attempting to shift the discussion around safety and reproductive health. Newman pre-filed a bill which would impose similar barriers to getting a firearm that currently exist for women seeking an abortion. “If we truly insist that Missouri cares about ‘all life,’ then we must take immediate steps to address our major cities’ rising rates of gun violence,” said Newman.

The bill, HB. 1397, illustrates the contrast of policy approaches to two public health issues: women’s access to reproductive services and gun violence or gun-related crime. “Popular proposals among voters, including universal background checks and restricting weapons from abusers and convicted felons, are consistently ignored each session,” said Newman. “Since restrictive policies regarding a constitutionally protected medical procedure are the GOP’s legislative priority each year, it makes sense that their same restrictions apply to those who may commit gun violence.”

If enacted, Missourians would have to jump through a number of hoops in order to purchase a firearm. Provisions of the bill mirror common abortion requirements for prospective gun buyers. They must meet with a licensed physician to discuss the risks of gun ownership, including reviewing “materials about peaceful and nonviolent conflict resolution;” watch a video about fetal firearm injuries; show proof of parental consent; withstand a 72-hour waiting period; and only purchase from a vendor 120 miles—the average distance a woman must travel to get an abortion—from their legal residence.

The legislation also mandates that they first encounter gun violence victims: touring an emergency trauma center at a nearby hospital, meeting with at least two families who have been victims of gun violence, as well as two faith leaders who have officiated a funeral for a victim under the age of 18.

Missouri has some of the harshest abortion restrictions nationwide; only one clinic that performs abortions has managed to remain open in the state. Further, an onslaught of calculated requirements force patients to wait multiple days or make separate trips to access the procedure. Low-income women—a majority of whom are women of color—and women living in rural areas are especially affected by such nonsensical terms.

In numerous states, a maze of abortion restrictions enacted by conservative legislatures have made abortion a luxury good, effectively making it inaccessible to many women. Required waiting periods, hospital admitting privileges, bans on medication abortion, mandatory ultrasounds, and more present an undue burden on women’s right to choose. In Missouri, for instance, individuals must receive state-mandated counseling which consists of wildly discredited information—including that abortion leads to an increased chance of breast cancer—intended to discourage them from having an abortion. Earlier this year, a bill was introduced in the Missouri legislature which would require women to watch a video with graphic information about abortion, after receiving it from doctors both orally and in writing. What’s more, counseling must be provided in person and take place before a 72-hour waiting period begins, thereby necessitating two separate trips to the facility.

Time and again, women’s health advocates and medical experts have declared these requirements medically-unnecessary and unconstitutional. Such measures are a political tool used by anti-choice politicians to insert themselves into the patient-provider relationship—at the expense of women’s health and wellbeing.

Despite the legislation’s unlikely chance of advancing, Newman’s bill illuminates the reality that ending a pregnancy safely and legally is more difficult than buying a firearm in America. About one in three American women will have an abortion by the time she reaches age 45. Missouri ranks among the top five states with the highest number of gun deaths. Yet recently, in wake of two mass shootings, an amendment to require background checks on all gun purchases nationwide failed in the Senate.

“We talk about life all the time, but when the answer comes to protecting it, the answer is more guns,” said Newman. “It’s gotten out of hand.”

Washington, D.C.

Lauren Kokum researches the intersection of religion and ethics with public policy at a think tank in Washington, D.C. She favors museums, slam poetry, and musings on race, gender, and human rights. | All opinions expressed here are her own.

Lauren Kokum favors museums, slam poetry, and musings on race, gender, religion, and human rights.

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