The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
A state lawmaker wants to stop a graduate student at the University of Missouri from continuing research for her dissertation on the impact of a 72-hour waiting period on women considering abortions.
Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) claimed in a letter to the university chancellor dated Oct. 30 that the university is breaking the law by allowing the student to carry out her research. The grad student is studying a recently imposed law requiring women in Missouri to wait 72 hours between the time they seek information about an abortion and the point at which they have the procedure. . . .
Sen. Schaefer argues that the dissertation is a "marketing aid" for Planned Parenthood because the study will, among other things, document the effects of a recently enacted 72-hour waiting period law in the state. Missouri law currently prohibits the use of tax dollars to encourage a woman to have an abortion unless it is "necessary to save her life." Sen. Schaefer seems to believe that the dissertation may violate this prohibition. The university disagrees, as HuffPo reports further:
The university is "well aware" of the law forbidding tax dollars to be used for encouraging abortions, MU spokeswoman Mary Jo Banken said, but that's not what the student is doing—and she does not receive any scholarships or grant money from the university anyway. . . .
The study was approved by the university's institutional review board, a standard procedure for any research involving human subjects. According to university sources, there was no pushback from the IRB, and no funding from the university is going into the study.
As this story makes clear, not all threats to free speech and open inquiry on college campuses come from the left.
It's certainly possible that the dissertation in question will document negative consequences resulting from the state's 72-hour abortion waiting period, and may therefore serve the cause of opposing such restrictions. But so what? And even assuming that the state is somehow subsidizing this research, it would be anathema to limit graduate research at an institution of higher learning to subjects and perspectives that meet the state legislature's approval.