The next chapter in the legal battle to require hospital admitting privileges for abortion doctors in Wisconsin -- the outcome of which could close two of the state’s four abortion clinics -- begins Tuesday.
Oral arguments in the case brought against the state by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Affiliated Medical Services abortion clinic in Milwaukee and five doctors who perform the procedure for those clinics will begin at 9:30 a.m., Tuesday, at the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
Wisconsin is one of five states with recently passed laws that require doctors to have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of their clinics. Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, North Dakota and Texas are the others.
In Wisconsin, the hospital admitting privileges provision was included in Sonya’s Law, also known as the ultrasound bill. That bill requires a woman to have an ultrasound and be read a script of what is on the screen prior to having an abortion. The woman is given the option to look at the ultrasound image.
That portion of the bill took effect July 8 and is not being challenged in the lawsuit. The entire bill was introduced June 4 and quickly made its way through the Republican-controlled state Legislature. It was signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker on July 5 in a private ceremony.
The state’s two abortion providers quickly filed suit and successfully sought a permanent injunction to keep two of the state’s clinics open.
If the appellate court judges rule in favor of the state, the Planned Parenthood clinic in Appleton and Milwaukee’s Affiliated Medical Center will close, as those doctors have not been able to obtain admitting privileges to nearby hospitals.
Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, formerly Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin’s public policy director, said she thinks the law is on the side of the providers.
“Legislators that pushed this bill through never made a case as to why it protected the health and safety of women,” Taylor said. “They are taking their marching orders from Wisconsin Right to Life, Pro-Life Wisconsin (and other groups) and don’t realize if what they are passing is even constitutional. All they know is they are going to shut down abortion access in Wisconsin.”
U.S. District Judge William Conley questioned the lack of medical necessity in the state passing the law when he issued a temporary restraining order in July to keep the law from being implemented and again when he issued a permanent injunction.
“On this record, the admitting privileges requirement is a solution in search of a problem,” wrote Conley. “Devoid of any documentation of a medical need or purpose in Wisconsin, the governor nevertheless signed the act on July 5, 2013.”
On Tuesday, each side is scheduled to have 20 minutes to argue its case before a panel of three judges. Susan Crawford, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said a written decision shouldn't be expected for a few months.