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Iowa Supreme Court blocks new waiting period for abortions

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Supreme Court blocked an abortion restriction Friday less than two hours after Gov. Terry Branstad signed it, allowing dozens of women who had scheduled the procedure to move forward without waiting 72 hours as the new law requires.

The court’s move frustrated some activists who advocated for the legislation. Besides the waiting period, the bill Branstad signed would outlaw most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape, incest or fatal fetal conditions.

Iowa lawmakers this session also approved legislation cutting off state funding for Planned Parenthood, a move that would cost Iowa about $3 million in federal Medicaid funding if approved by Branstad.

“That is incredibly sobering and weighs into why there was so much emotion in the room at the bill signing today,” said Jenifer Bowen, a spokeswoman for Iowa Right to Life. “We’re fighting literally for unborn babies’ lives.”

Iowa joined five other states with 72-hour requirements, the longest in the country. The states with similar policies are Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah.

Ben Hammes, a spokesman for Branstad, called the court’s injunction “part of the process,” adding that the governor expects the stay will soon be lifted since other states have enacted similar measures.

Sen. Mark Costello, a key Republican supporter of the legislation, said lawmakers knew it would likely face a court challenge.

“It’s one of the reasons we went with this bill, which was somewhat more limited than what a lot of people wanted,” he said. “We felt it would be upheld.”

The injunction followed a decision Thursday by a lower court judge who denied a request by Planned Parenthood and the ACLU to block the waiting period before Branstad signed the measure. The organizations argued that a 72-hour waiting period could cause undue harm to women by requiring multiple appointments.

Suzanna de Baca, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said in a statement that the law already caused confusion for patients.

“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,” she said. “Our staff had to call some patients back who had just been told they would be unable to have a procedure today.”

According to the initial 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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