An Iowa judge upheld the state’s three-day waiting period for abortions last week, drawing praise from local pro-life organizations such as the Iowa Catholic Conference, who called the ruling a “positive move.”
“We are very pleased by the decision, because we think to allow women to have a reflection time before an abortion means that some of them will take that time to at least think about the decision that they are making,” stated Tom Chapman, executive director of the Iowa Catholic Conference, in an interview with CNA. “Some of those women will decide in favor of life, so we were very pleased to see the judge’s decision and hope it will stand up if there are further appeals,” Chapman continued.
The act, which was passed last spring, requires a mandatory 72-hour waiting period and two consultations with doctors before receiving an abortion. It would also require the option of viewing an ultrasound and educational materials about risks associated with the procedure.
In May, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa sued against the Iowa Act, calling it a “malicious, politically motivated, anti-woman legislation.”
Judge Jeffrey Farrell of the Polk County District Court ruled against the petitioners Oct. 2, saying the law “complies with the constitutional standard” and did not place “undue burden” on women seeking abortion. “The evidence at trial focused on the hardships women face when dealing with an unwanted pregnancy, but the public’s interest in potential life is an interest that cannot be denied under law. Both of these interests are important,” stated Farrell.
Following the court’s ruling, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a notice that they will appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court. Farrell's ruling states the act will go into effect after 30 days, unless the Iowa Supreme Court grants a stay or an injunction.
Iowa is not the only state to enforce waiting periods before abortions – 27 other states have similar postponement requirements, and have been met with similar controversy. According to Chapman, one of the benefits of enforcing a waiting period would be to potentially help women who feel pressured to make a more informed decision. He also said it could prevent guilt or regret that some women experience post-abortion. “I think if people look at what the actual facts are and the studies that have been done, there are certainly women who regret their abortions,” Chapman said.
According to Iowa Right to Life, studies have shown that within a few months after an abortion, 31 percent of women had regrets about their decision. The study also found that 55 percent of women expressed guilt, while 44 percent of women experienced nervous disorders.
“It certainly seems from the data that abortion can very much cause regrets for families – because remember, we are talking about the unborn child, we are talking about the woman herself, and we are talking about the people surrounding the mother. All of those can be affected by this decision,” Chapman noted. “I think this is a very positive move from the court to recognize this and we are very supportive of this and hope it will stand up in court if it gets appealed.”
Farrell had also upheld in 2014 an Iowa Board of Medicine rule that would have effectively barred the use of a telemedicine system to dispense abortion-inducing pills. The Iowa Supreme Court reversed his ruling in 2015, ruling the ban unconstitutional.