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Pregnant women can’t get divorced in Missouri

“It just doesn’t make sense in 2024,” said Democratic state legislator Ashley Aune

Io Dodds
Tuesday 27 February 2024 16:47 GMT
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A pregnant woman lies on her bed with monitoring devices placed on her belly as she gets ready before delivering her child at the maternity ward of a hospital in Paris on June 29, 2022
A pregnant woman lies on her bed with monitoring devices placed on her belly as she gets ready before delivering her child at the maternity ward of a hospital in Paris on June 29, 2022 (Christophe Archambault/AFP via Getty Images)

Democrats in Missouri are attempting to overturn a decades-old law that bans women from getting divorced while they are pregnant.

Since 1973, Missouri statute has refused to allow any divorce to be finalised while the wife is carrying a foetus, so that questions of custody and child support can be decided before the couple fully split.

Now Ashley Aune, a Missouri state representative, has introduced legislation that would overturn the ban, according to Fox 4 Kansas City.

"It just doesn’t make sense in 2024," Ms Aune told the outlet, citing recent testimony from a woman who had been unable to divorce her abusive husband.

“Not only was she being physically and emotionally abused, but there was reproduction coercion used. When she found out she was pregnant and asked a lawyer if she could get a divorce, she was essentially told no.

"It was so demoralizing for her to hear that. She felt she had no options."

The Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, a non-profit based in Jefferson City, backed the new law, saying it could "literally save lives".

Abusive partners, said chief public affairs officer Matthew Huffman, frequently use "reproductive coercion" to control their partners, keeping them pregnant in order to prevent them from getting a divorce.

After Fox 4 published its story on Monday, it – and the existence of Missouri's pregnancy divorce ban, which was unknown to many people – quickly went viral on Reddit and X, the social network formerly known as Twitter.

There are no exceptions for domestic violence, Fox 4 added.

Arkansas, California, and Texas reportedly have similar laws, while other states make it technically possible but realistically difficult to divorce while pregnant.

Ms Aune has previously criticised Missouri's Republican state legislative majority for passing a dress code that required women to cover their arms in the chamber.

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