- Associated Press - Thursday, May 4, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A county judge will allow a mandatory 72-hour waiting period to go into effect for abortions in Iowa.

The ruling by Polk County Judge Jeffrey Farrell was prompted by Gov. Terry Branstad’s announcement that he will sign a bill into law Friday that includes the waiting period. The bill will go into effect immediately when signed.

Lawyers for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa filed a lawsuit to block the waiting period, arguing it would harm women with standing appointments and require multiple trips.

Farrell concluded that women could meet the 72-hour waiting period.

“I do believe someone can go to their local provider… and get an ultrasound and otherwise meet the standards,” he said during the ruling.

Lawyers seeking the injunction said they will appeal the ruling to the Iowa Supreme Court.

Alice Clapman, a lawyer for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said 44 scheduled procedures will be prevented if Branstad signs the law as planned. Planned Parenthood and American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa requested an emergency injunction to allow those abortions, but could not prove those individuals would face undue harm.

“We have women who are scheduled to be at the clinic tomorrow,” Clapman said.

Clapman argued the mandatory 72-hour waiting period would create an undue burden on patients by forcing multiple appointments, noting low-income rural patients would struggle the most with such guidelines.

Iowa Solicitor General Jeffrey Thompson argued on behalf of the state that “there is not a constitutional right to an abortion on demand.”

Thompson said the burdens are not created by the statute, but rather Planned Parenthood’s business hours and inability to meet patient’s needs.

“In the end, there’s a lot of stuff in the record, but it’s not evidence that supports and satisfies the burden to show this statute causes irreparable harm to them,” he said.

The abortion bill that Branstad said he’ll sign was pushed through the Legislature over the opposition of most Democrats.

Beside the waiting period, it would outlaw most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and wouldn’t allow exceptions for rape, incest or fatal fetal anomalies. The bill also would require doctors to offer a woman more details about an ultrasound, including an option to hear the heartbeat or a description of the fetus.

This bill would make Iowa the sixth state to require a 72-hour waiting period, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. Other states with similar policies are Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah.

According to the lawsuit, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland provided over 2,100 medication abortions and over 1,200 surgical abortions in Iowa in the past year. The clinic has eight locations that offer such services.

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