Iowa High Court Blocks Abortion Waiting Period

DES MOINES, Iowa (CN) – Only hours after Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed a bill requiring a 72-hour waiting period for abortions, the state’s highest court ordered a temporary injunction Friday halting enforcement of the new law.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and its medical director Dr. Jill Meadows filed a petition for injunctive relief against the Republican governor, the state and the Iowa Board of Medicine on Wednesday in Polk County District Court.

In the petition, Planned Parenthood challenged the constitutionality of Senate File 471, which imposes a 72-hour mandatory delay and additional trip requirement on women seeking to have an abortion.

The bill passed the Iowa House 55-42 on April 5 and the Iowa Senate 30-20 on April 18. Gov. Branstad signed it into law at 8:30 a.m. Friday.

According to the petition, the new law is one of the strictest requirements in the nation on women seeking an abortion.

Under SF 471, Iowa women must receive an ultrasound and state-mandated information prior to receiving an abortion. They would also have to wait at least 72 hours before returning to a health care center to have an abortion.

However, under previous Iowa law and Planned Parenthood practices, ultrasounds and necessary information are provided to women just prior to an abortion, Meadows says.

Planned Parenthood and Meadows argue that no similar two-trip or mandatory delay requirement is imposed on Iowa women or men seeking any other medical procedure. They say the new law offers women no benefit and will severely burden their access to abortion.

While Gov. Branstad signed the bill into law Friday morning, only hours later the Iowa Supreme Court issued a temporary injunction, halting the 72-hour forced delay requirement until the court reviews the arguments presented by the state and Planned Parenthood.

The Iowa Supreme Court ordered the state to file a response to Planned Parenthood’s motion for an injunction by noon Monday.

“The court will then consider whether the injunction should remain in force pending this court’s resolution of appellants’ application for interlocutory appeal,” the one-page order states.

On Thursday, Polk County Judge Jeffrey Farrell denied Planned Parenthood’s request for a temporary injunction against the law. The group appealed, and the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling followed.

“We are pleased that the Court granted the temporary injunction, ruling on the side of Iowa women who need access to, and have a constitutional right, to safe, legal abortion,”  said Suzanna de Baca, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. “This ruling means that dozens of women today are able to access the care they need. In the two hours we saw patients between the governor signing this legislation into law and when the temporary injunction was ordered, havoc was wreaked on many patients’ lives. One woman had driven seven hours to her appointment, only to be told she couldn’t have the procedure today; others were angry and upset at the intrusion into their lives. Our staff had to call some patients back who had just been told they would be unable to have a procedure today.”

De Baca added, “We are hopeful that the Court will ultimately agree that of the Iowa women, whose right to safe, legal abortion has been accepted law for 44 years, continue to have the protection that has been guaranteed under the Iowa constitution.”

Gov. Branstad’s office did not immediate respond to a request for comment Friday afternoon.

According to Wednesday’s lawsuit, about one in three women in the United States will have an abortion by age 45. Fifty-nine percent of women who seek abortions are mothers who have decided that they cannot parent another child, and 66 percent plan to have children when they are older, Planned Parenthood says.

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