SALT LAKE CITY Utah's Republican governor signed a law extending a required waiting period for women seeking an abortion to 72 hours on Tuesday, even though a similar requirement in South Dakota has been blocked in court, a spokeswoman said.
The decision by Governor Gary Herbert is expected to meet with approval from social conservatives in the heavily Republican state just four days after he upset some members of his party by vetoing a bill to curb sex education in schools.
"Governor Herbert is an adamant supporter of rights for the unborn," said Ally Isom, a spokeswoman for the governor. "He felt the bill appropriately allows a woman who's facing that decision to fully weigh her options and the implications of that decision."
The state currently requires a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion.
The law is the latest salvo in the long-running national battle over abortion that has seen a host of states pass laws imposing requirements on women before they can undergo the procedure. In neighboring Idaho, lawmakers are considering requiring women to undergo an ultrasound before ending a pregnancy.
A South Dakota law that passed last year also required women seeking an abortion to wait three days before having the procedure, but the state's Planned Parenthood group sued in federal court saying the law violated the equal protection and due process rights of women.
Chief Judge Karen Schreier of the U.S. District Court for South Dakota preliminarily blocked the requirement in June when she found it imposed an undue burden on women, noting that some low-income abortion patients travel long distances and cannot afford to go home and then return.
A representative for the National Organization for Women could not be reached late on Tuesday to comment on the Utah governor's action.
"We believe that a court will find the 72-hour waiting period (in Utah) is not an undue burden," Isom said.
One difference between the two state laws is that, unlike in South Dakota where lawmakers sought to require that women wait 72 hours after first meeting with the abortion provider, Utah would allow the waiting period to begin after an initial consultation with a health professional. That person need not be an abortion doctor.
The Utah law is due to take effect on May 7 in a state that is one of the most conservative in the nation and has not had a Democratic governor since 1985.
While South Dakota was the first state to pass legislation for a three-day wait in 2011, 26 states require women to wait before receiving an abortion. Most often, that is a 24-hour period, according to reproductive health organization the Guttmacher Institute.
(Writing By Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Beech)