Health

Iowa Supreme Court likely to rule on 72-hour abortion restriction

Waiting period required by Branstad-era law; 'heartbeat' restriction remains blocked

Alice Clapman of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Washington, D.C. argues the Planned Parenthood v. Reynolds case at the Iowa Supreme Court Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Alice Clapman of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Washington, D.C. argues the Planned Parenthood v. Reynolds case at the Iowa Supreme Court Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, in Des Moines, Iowa.

The Iowa Supreme Court is expected to decide on Friday if the law requiring women seeking abortion services undergo a 72-hour waiting period is unconstitutional, the court announced Thursday.

The court is expected to file its opinion on the lawsuit filed by the Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa against the state.

The suit contends the law that requires a waiting period before obtaining an abortion at any stage in the pregnancy is unconstitutional as it places an undue burden on women that could prevent them from obtaining the medical procedure.

The law, signed by then-Gov. Terry Branstad in May 2017, also requires an appointment before the 72-hour waiting period to view an ultrasound, review options and have the option to hear a description of the fetus.

In a hearing earlier this year, lawyers for the state argued the law does not block a woman’s right to an abortion by the Iowa Constitution and federal law, but allows her more time to be certain of their decision. It would allow some to change their minds, they contended.

The provision of the law has never been enacted. The Iowa Supreme Court granted an emergency injunction against enforcing the three-day waiting period.

Twenty-seven states require women seeking an abortion to go through a waiting period, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health care policy and research organization. However, only a handful — Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah — require a 72-hour waiting period.

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The case was considered by the court as the Republican-controlled legislature considered further abortion restrictions this past session. Legislators went on to approve a fetal heartbeat law that would ban abortion when a heartbeat is detected or at about six weeks of pregnancy.

A Polk County judge blocked that law after Gov. Kim Reynolds signed it while a lawsuit — from Planned Parenthood and the Emma Goldman Clinic — is resolved.

l Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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