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The Jaco Report, Ep. 24: Missouri abortion laws, old and new, are about shame, not health

When mother of two Jennifer Box discovered she was pregnant in 2017, she was ecstatic.

That feeling turned to horror when, at 13 weeks, she received genetic test results showing the fetus carried an extra chromosome number 18, a condition called Trisomy 18.

Trisomy 18 kills 88 percent of infants who have it within the
first year of life – a year filled with surgeries, fluid-filled lungs, a tiny
head causing major neurological problems, and intense pain.

Box, a business owner from Webster Groves, decided to have an
abortion. After Aug. 28, when Missouri’s new abortion law takes

effect, this abortion would be illegal, and a doctor who performed it
would face 15 years in prison.

Under current state abortion laws, Box was able to have the abortion only after being forced to jump through legal hoops she says are designed to “shame” women.

First was the 72-hour waiting period. She, her doctor and her
husband had all agreed the abortion was necessary, but under
current Missouri law, she was forced to wait 72 hours after
consulting with her doctor. She was also given a state-mandated
pamphlet filled, she says, not with medical information but with anti-
abortion propaganda.

“The booklet talks a lot about ‘fetal pain’ and is just loaded
with inaccurate information,” Box said. “My husband and I refer to it
as the book of shame. The purpose of the wait period and the
booklet is just to shame women and extract a price from anyone
seeking an abortion.”

Robin Utz of St. Louis County had a similar experience.

She discovered after an anatomical scan 21 weeks into her 2016 pregnancy that her fetus had bilateral multicystic dysplastic kidney disease. Both kidneys were riddled with cysts, there was no amniotic fluid, the lungs were barely developed, and doctors concluded there was a “100 percent chance” the baby would either be born dead or would live only a few weeks, in agony.

Utz decided to have an abortion but had less than two weeks to act or the abortion would be illegal under Missouri’s current abortion law. She, too, had to wait the seemingly endless 72 hours mandated by the state, and she, too, was given the state-required booklet.

“There is a line in it that says, ‘You are terminating a separate
human life,’ and that just ignited a fury in me,” Utz said. “It prompted
me to think the legislators who wrote these requirements just don’t
understand our circumstances.”

She paused.

“We didn’t even have time to deal with our pain and our grief because we were so busy dealing with these state-mandated requirements.”

Appearing on The Jaco Report, Utz and Box said they concluded after numerous trips to Jefferson City that anti-choice lawmakers don’t care, and don’t want to know, the realities of the heartbreaking struggles surrounding abortion access.

Box said she tried writing to St. Charles County state Rep. Nick Schroer, a co-author of the new law than bans abortion after eight weeks, but he indicated he wasn’t interested in communicating with anyone with ties to what Schroer called “blood money.”

Schroer earlier made headlines by tweeting that many women falsely claim they’ve been raped so they can have a late-term abortion a few days before the due date.

Box said: “If they want to come to my pre-natal appointments, because they obviously think they can make better decisions about my pregnancy than I can, I would invite them to join me and see what it’s like to have a high-risk pregnancy following a fatal fetal anomaly and experience those visits.

“I want to see if they think that the laws that they’re making and the hoops that they’re forcing pregnant people to jump through are really about health and safety when we know they’re not.”

Charles Jaco

Charles Jaco is a journalist and author. He has worked for NBC News, CNN, KMOX, KTRS, and Fox 2. He is best known for his coverage of the first Gulf War, and for his "legitimate rape" interview with Senate candidate Todd Akin. He is the winner of three George Foster Peabody Awards, and the author of four books.

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