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A mandatory waiting period is the term for the amount of time that must legally pass between the point at which a request is made, and the point at which that request is granted. For example, many American states have mandatory waiting periods which must pass before a woman can legally obtain an abortion.
Mandatory waiting periods required for legal abortions vary from state to state. In fact, many American states including Alaska, California, and Connecticut have no mandatory waiting period at all.
In Alabama, women must wait 48 hours after the completion of their pre-abortion counseling before receiving the procedure. In Louisiana, Arizona, Georgia, and some other states this mandatory waiting period is reduced to 24 hours. In Missouri, South Dakota and Utah, women must wait 72 hours between undergoing counseling and terminating their pregnancy.
Many women’s rights advocates believe that mandatory waiting periods threaten a woman’s constitutional right to access abortion services. Mandatory waiting periods mean that women must make two separate trips to an abortion clinic. This may force them to take a significant amount of unpaid leave, make childcare arrangements, or travel very long distances. Poor women and those living in rural areas are particularly disadvantaged by mandatory waiting periods.
Supporters of mandatory waiting periods insist that they allow women to really consider whether they would like to go ahead with the abortion. However, studies show these laws have little impact on a woman’s final decision, as more than 90 percent of woman are already “completely sure” of their decision before entering pre-abortion counseling. Research has also found that mandatory waiting periods cause emotional and financial damage to women wishing to terminate their pregnancies. States with mandatory waiting periods also have higher rates of second-trimester abortions, as this system forces them to delay the procedure.