The Louisiana legislature on Wednesday passed a bill requiring women to wait three days before receiving an abortion, tripling the state's existing waiting time in one of the most stringent regulations of its kind nationally.
Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has said he plans to sign the bill championed by anti-abortion groups. It passed with wide support from the Republican-controlled legislature.
The bill requires a woman to wait at least 72 hours after a state-mandated ultrasound for the procedure. The current waiting time is 24 hours, the same as in most states with waiting periods.
Only five other states require 72-hour waiting periods: Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah.
The measures are among a wave of laws being adopted by states as conservatives seek to chip away at the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision to legalize abortion.
Advocates of extending the Louisiana waiting period say women need more time to consider alternatives and the consequences of ending a pregnancy.
"Many of them come to regret their decision later in life," Deanna Wallace, legislative director for Louisiana Right to Life, said in a telephone interview. The measure is "empowering them with additional time to consider all of the options."
Opponents of the legislation see it as the latest attempt to block women's access to abortions.
"Politicians in Louisiana have made it their mission to restrict access to safe and legal health care — with women in the state left to pay the price,” Amanda Allen, senior state legislative counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement, urging the governor to veto the measure.
Louisiana also requires women to make two separate visits to a clinic to obtain an abortion, seen as an additional burden on women forced to take extra time off work and away from families, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks reproductive health policy.
Missouri, South Dakota and Utah have similar policies, while North Carolina and Oklahoma allow women to receive the initial counseling by phone.
The Louisiana legislation includes an exception for women living 150 miles or farther from an abortion clinic. They will remain under the current 24-hour waiting requirement.
(Reporting by Karen Brooks in Fort Worth, Texas; Additional reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Fla.; Editing by Peter Cooney)