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State Rep. Seeks to End Missouri Law That Bars Pregnant Women From Divorcing

BlogState Rep. Seeks to End Missouri Law That Bars Pregnant Women From Divorcing

Democratic State Representative Ashley Aune is leading efforts to abolish an antiquated Missouri Divorce law that prohibits pregnant women from obtaining a divorce, even in cases of domestic abuse. This law, enacted in 1973 and amended in 2016, mandates that married women disclose their pregnancies when seeking a divorce. However, judges retain the authority to deny divorce decrees or legal separations until after the child’s birth.

The Impact of Missouri Divorce Law:

1. Lack of Exceptions:

  • The law fails to provide exceptions for pregnant women who are victims of domestic abuse, exposing them to continued harm and danger.
  • Many instances of domestic abuse involve coercion or forced pregnancies, further exacerbating the risks faced by pregnant individuals seeking to leave abusive partners.

2. Barrier to Reproductive Autonomy:

  • Missouri’s near-total abortion ban exacerbates the challenges faced by pregnant individuals seeking divorce, limiting their options and perpetuating their vulnerability.
  • The law infringes upon women’s reproductive autonomy and perpetuates gender-based discrimination within the legal system.

Proposed Amendment: HB 2402

1. Aim of the Amendment:

  • Rep. Aune’s proposed amendment, House Bill 2402 (HB 2402), seeks to remove the requirement for courts to consider pregnancy status when granting divorces.
  • The amendment states: “Pregnancy status shall not prevent the court from entering a judgment of dissolution of marriage or legal separation.”

2. Potential Impact:

  • By eliminating a significant barrier to divorce for pregnant individuals, HB 2402 has the potential to save lives and protect the rights of vulnerable individuals.
  • The proposed amendment reflects a commitment to gender equity and reproductive justice within the legal framework of Missouri.

Support for the Amendment:

1. Testimony of Julie Donelon:

  • During a public hearing on HB 2402, Julie Donelon, CEO of the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault, provided compelling testimony highlighting the link between domestic abuse and reproductive coercion.
  • Donelon emphasized the dangers faced by individuals coerced into pregnancy by abusive partners and underscored the increased risk of harm during or after pregnancy.

2. Advocacy for Women’s Rights:

  • Support for HB 2402 extends beyond advocacy groups to encompass individuals and organizations committed to protecting women’s rights and ensuring reproductive autonomy.
  • The proposed amendment aligns with broader efforts to address systemic barriers to gender equality and justice within the legal system.

Opposition and Challenges:

1. Concerns Raised by State Senator Denny Hoskins:

  • Despite the urgent need for reform, State Senator Denny Hoskins expressed reservations about making divorce too accessible during pregnancy.
  • Hoskins suggested that marital discord alone should not justify divorce, reflecting opposition to the proposed amendment.

2. Persistence of Similar Laws in Other States:

  • Missouri’s restrictive divorce law mirrors similar statutes in other states, including Texas, Arizona, and Arkansas, which are predominantly governed by Republicans.
  • The persistence of these archaic laws underscores broader challenges related to women’s rights and reproductive autonomy across different jurisdictions.

Broader Implications and Calls for Action:

1. Intersection of Reproductive Rights and Legal Reform:

  • Awareness of Missouri’s restrictive divorce law highlights the intersection of reproductive rights advocacy and efforts to reform discriminatory legal statutes.
  • Calls for action extend beyond Missouri to encompass broader initiatives aimed at promoting gender equity and justice within the legal system.

2. Importance of Legislative Advocacy:

  • Legislative advocacy, spearheaded by Rep. Aune and supported by grassroots organizations and community activists, plays a pivotal role in driving legal reform and advancing gender justice initiatives.
  • By challenging discriminatory laws and amplifying the voices of marginalized communities, advocates strive to create a more equitable and inclusive society for all individuals.

Conclusion: Missouri Divorce Law

1. Urgent Need for Reform:

  • Missouri’s restrictive divorce law represents a significant barrier to reproductive autonomy and gender equality, particularly for pregnant individuals facing domestic abuse.
  • Efforts to repeal this outdated law, spearheaded by Rep. Aune and supported by advocates and allies, underscore the urgent need for legislative reform to protect the rights and safety of vulnerable individuals.

2. Path Forward:

  • As legislative debates continue and advocacy efforts intensify, the path forward involves sustained mobilization and coalition-building to effect meaningful change.
  • By centering the voices and experiences of those most impacted by discriminatory laws, advocates can drive transformative legal reform and create a more just and equitable society for future generations.


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