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State Law Prevents Divorce During Pregnancy Even In Cases Of Violence 

At six months pregnant, H (the woman's name is retracted) decided to leave her abusive husband after discovering he was also violent towards her child. However, her attorney informed her that Missouri law prevents pregnant women from finalizing a divorce. Defeated, H returned to her abusive home, enduring more violence. For safety, she slept on the basement floor with the dogs. The law requiring disclosure of pregnancy in divorce cases effectively bans pregnant women from divorcing. This law, originally intended to secure custody and support arrangements post-birth, now creates significant barriers for abused pregnant women.

H's divorce was delayed until three months after her second child's birth, prolonging her exposure to abuse. Similar laws exist in Texas and Arkansas. Advocates argue these laws can facilitate reproductive coercion, where abusers control pregnancy outcomes to maintain power. H experienced this when her husband raped her, resulting in pregnancy.

Democratic representative Ashley Aune introduced House Bill 2402 to allow judges more discretion in granting expedited divorces in pregnancy cases. The bill has yet to be voted on. Missouri's restrictive reproductive health laws, including a near-total abortion ban, exacerbate these issues. Advocates are working to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to legalize abortion until fetal viability.

Homicide is a leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths in Missouri, predominantly affecting Black women, often perpetrated by current or former partners. Advocates emphasize that enabling pregnant women to finalize divorces can save lives and help them regain control.

In Missouri, the law preventing pregnant women from finalizing divorces, even in cases of violence, is a glaring example of how the system can fail those most in need. This law, while perhaps well-intentioned, traps women like H in abusive situations, denying them the right to safety and autonomy. By preventing pregnant women from leaving violent partners, Missouri is effectively prioritizing bureaucratic processes over human lives. We'll continue to follow this story for more updates as they come out.

Link: The Guardian  


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