Iowa's top court rejects waiting period for abortions

(Reuters) - Iowa’s Supreme Court on Friday rejected a 72-hour waiting period for abortions signed into law last year, ruling it 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, which could lead to more women choosing to give birth.

Iowa’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, voiced disappointment over the ruling.

“I don’t think it is unreasonable to require 72 hours for someone to weigh their options and the important decision they are about to make,” Reynolds said in a statement.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa had sued over the waiting period requirement.

“We are elated the court blocked Gov. Reynolds’ egregious anti-woman agenda of making safe, legal abortion harder to access,” the chief executive of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Suzanna de Baca, said in a statement.

There is a separate challenge pending over the law passed in April that outlaws abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, often at six weeks and before a woman realizes she is pregnant,

That measure, which was passed by Iowa’s Republican-controlled legislature and signed into law by Reynolds, has been put on hold while the legal challenge 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 Bill Trott and Leslie Adler