By Chris Kenning

By Chris Kenning

 

(Reuters) - The Iowa Supreme Court has maintained a block on a three-day waiting period for women seeking an abortion until a legal challenge concludes, a decision cheered by abortion-rights advocates.

 

The provision was signed into law in May by former Republican Governor Terry Branstad, part of new regulations that also included a ban on most abortions after 20 weeks.

 

The waiting period portion was challenged earlier this year by the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and Planned Parenthood. The Iowa state attorney general's office could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

 

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973 although states can limit and regulate abortions. U.S. state legislatures enacted 41 new abortion restrictions in the first half of 2017, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health group that supports abortion rights.

Planned Parenthood on Tuesday praised the court's decision, issued on Monday, to keep in place a prior stay on the requirement that women wait 72 hours before having an abortion.

"This ruling ensures that women in Iowa will have continued access to the health care they need throughout the course of this lawsuit," said Susan Allen, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.

A lower court had earlier upheld the disputed provision of the law, noting that 27 states have implemented waiting periods for abortion, ranging from 18 to 72 hours, the Des Moines Register reported on Tuesday.

In May, Planned Parenthood said it would shutter four of its 12 clinics in Iowa as a result of another Iowa measure that blocked public money for family planning services to abortion providers.

(Reporting by Chris Kenning; editing by Grant McCool)