Louisiana Imposes Probably Unconstitutional 72-Hour Waiting Period on Abortion


Many of the states in our union seem to care not for its laws. Louisiana, for example: Seemingly hell-bent on undercutting a woman's constitutional right to abortion, the state's legislature has passed a law that imposes a 72-hour waiting period on the procedure, and as Reuters reported, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards intends to sign. That's three times the current waiting period. 

"Politicians in Louisiana have made it their mission to restrict access to safe and legal health care — with women in the state left to pay the price," senior state legislative counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, Amanda Allen, said.

Melinda Deslatte/AP

In February, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed a Texas-style omnibus bill that held Louisiana's abortion clinics to unrealistically high operating standards, forcing the closure of all but one. On March 4, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked the measure. 

Per 1973's Roe v. Wade decision, abortion remains legal nationwide, and states are barred "from outlawing or regulating any aspect of abortion performed during the first trimester of pregnancy," as PBS put it, when the majority of abortions occur. Restrictions may be imposed in the second and third trimesters, as the mother's health requires, but abortion is allowed until the fetus can survive outside the womb on its own. Even then, it's legal if the mother's life is threatened. 

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While 28 states make women wait 24 hours between initial abortion counseling and the procedure, that requirement should fall under Roe's "regulating any aspect of abortion" proscription. In 1983's Akron v. Akron, SCOTUS deemed Ohio's 24-hour waiting period "unconstitutional," because "Akron ... failed to demonstrate that any legitimate state interest is furthered by an arbitrary and inflexible waiting period," nor that the lapsed time made the procedure safer. The only thing it does, the only thing it's meant to do, is prevent women from terminating their pregnancies. 

As Reuters reported, Louisiana women living 150 miles away or more from a clinic won't see a change from the 24-hour waiting period, but they'll still have to make two inconvenient trips to get an abortion. 

Constitution? What is "constitution"?