Iowa judge upholds law that requires pregnant women to wait 72 hours before undergoing abortion

(Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo)A woman holds a sign in the rain as abortion rights protestors arrive to prepare for a counter protest against March for Life anti-abortion demonstrators on the 39th anniversary of the Roe vs Wade decision.

An Iowa judge has turned down a request for a permanent injunction to block a law that requires pregnant women to wait 72 hours before undergoing an abortion in the state.

On Monday, District Court Judge Jeffrey Farrell ruled that the law requiring a 72-hour waiting period is legal because it does not place an "undue burden" on a woman's right to abortions.

The law, which was signed by then-Gov. Terry Branstad in May, also prohibits abortions after 20 weeks' gestation and requires pregnant women to undergo an ultrasound to accurately determine the unborn baby's gestational age.

Branstad, who became the U.S. ambassador to China, described the measure as one of the "most pro-life" bills that had come across his desk in recent years.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Iowa filed a lawsuit to challenge the law in May, arguing that it puts an undue burden on women by requiring them to wait three days before having an abortion.

"There is no question that the second trip will have some impact on low-income women and those who have to drive longer distances. However, the fact that there is some burden is not dispositive if the act does not place a substantial obstacle in the way of women getting an abortion," Farrell stated, as reported by Life Site News.

"The 'undue burden' standard has been criticized, but it fairly balances the two competing interests of a woman's right to choose an abortion versus the public's interest in potential life. The public's interest in potential life is an interest that cannot be denied under the law," he went on to say.

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU have immediately filed a notice that they plan to appeal the decision to the Iowa Supreme Court. The law has been put on hold while the appeal is being considered.

Jenifer Bowen of Iowa Right to Life said that she was pleased with the Farrell's ruling, but she expressed doubts whether the Iowa Supreme Court would uphold the law.

Farrell had previously upheld an Iowa Board of Medicine rule that would have effectively prevented Planned Parenthood physicians from using telemedicine to dispense abortion pills to women in remote clinics, but his decision was unanimously overruled by the Iowa Supreme Court.

In the new case, Farrell argued that unlike the Board of Medicine rule, the waiting period law does not aim to protect women's health, but it is instead aimed at giving women a chance to think over their decision before proceeding with an abortion.

He further noted that waiting periods for abortions ranging from 18 to 72 hours are implemented in 27 states. Many such laws have faced legal challenges, with mixed results.

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