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Trial Challenging Iowa's Three-Day Waiting Period For Abortion Begins

Sarah Boden/IPR File

A trial begins at the Polk County Courthouse this morning that questions the constitutionality of Iowa's three-day waiting period for abortions. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland says this new law creates an undue burden, especially for rural and low-income women.

Waiting periods before abortions are legal. What's not clear is how long the delay can be before it becomes unconstitutional. 

Iowa's law requires a woman not only to wait three days, but also to obtain an ultrasound 72-hours before her abortion. This means patients must attend two separate medical visits. 

Planned Parenthood, which preforms most abortions in Iowa, notes that no other medical procedure in Iowa is subject to such a delay. It also says this provision means women seeking abortions now have to travel additional miles, and perhaps take multiple days off work or arrange for more extensive childcare. 

The state counters that it has a legitimate interest in regulating the medical profession "in order to promote respect for life, including life of the unborn." It adds the new law doesn’t regulate a woman’s right to abortion, but rather focuses on the physicians who provide abortions. 

This law was one of many of provisions passed by the Republican-controlled Iowa legislature this year to place restrictions on abortions. The Iowa Supreme Court has placed an injunction on the waiting period mandate until after the trial concludes. 

Any ruling by the district court will likely be appealed to the state's high court. 

Recently, four of Iowa's Planned Parenthood clinics closed as a result of the state blocking the the organization from receiving federal funding.  Only eight clinics remain.