Iowa high court rejects 72-hour waiting period for abortions
Rally against the CCBR's anti-abortion caravan at the Vancouver Art Gallery [Flickr Creative Commons]

Iowa’s Supreme Court on Friday rejected a 72-hour waiting period for abortions signed into law last year, ruling it was unconstitutional.

Iowa, which separately in April passed the nation’s strictest abortion limit known as the “fetal heartbeat” law, had placed the waiting period law on hold during the court challenge.

“We conclude the statute enacted by our legislature, while intended as a reasonable regulation, violates both the due process and equal protection clauses of the Iowa Constitution because its restrictions on women are not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling interest of the state,” Chief Justice Mark Cady wrote in the ruling.

Lawyers defending the waiting period, which was signed into law by then-Governor Terry Branstad, argued it would give women greater decision-making time when considering abortion, and that could lead to more women choosing to give birth.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, which sued over the waiting period requirement, said it served no medical purpose and violated women’s due process and equal protection rights.

In a subsequent move to limit abortion, Iowa’s Republican-controlled legislature passed the most restrictive ban in the United States, outlawing the procedure after a fetal heartbeat is detected, often at six weeks and before a woman realizes she is pregnant.

Signed into law by Republican Governor Kim Reynolds, it also been challenged in court and was put on hold while the lawsuit proceeds.

Some sponsors of the ban hope to trigger a challenge to Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision that established that women have a constitutional right to an abortion.

This week’s announcement that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will retire has put a spotlight on abortion rights as his successor will be picked by President Donald Trump, who has promised to put anti-abortion justices on the nation’s top court.

Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Franklin Paul and Bill Trott