Judge refuses to accept agreement over abortion law

2013-02-07T17:45:00Z Judge refuses to accept agreement over abortion lawED TRELEVEN | Wisconsin State Journal | etreleven@madison.com | 608-252-6134 madison.com

A federal judge on Thursday rejected an agreement between Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and the state Attorney General's Office over the interpretation of a state law that limits medication-induced abortions.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb, in a written opinion, said that she could not approve the agreement because it asks her to interpret a state statute over which she doesn't have jurisdiction, instead of addressing a question of federal law.

The agreement as submitted, Crabb wrote, doesn't resolve the claim that Planned Parenthood made in its lawsuit, that the statute is unconstitutionally vague and leaves doctors open to prosecution for unwittingly violating the law.

"As laudable as (this) effort by the parties to try to attain an expeditious resolution to the case is, I am not free to disregard limits on a federal court's authority," Crabb wrote.

In a proposed stipulation on Wednesday, lawyers for Planned Parenthood and the state Department of Justice agreed to interpretations of portions of the law governing medication-induced abortions that better define doctors' responsibilities under the law.

The two sides wrote that the interpretations avoid, and therefore resolve, Planned Parenthood's constitutional challenges to the law.

"This is an odd approach," Crabb wrote. "As a general rule, one does not 'resolve' an issue by avoiding it."

Instead, Crabb wrote that she will issue a new schedule for both sides to submit written arguments regarding Planned Parenthood's motion for a preliminary injunction, which asks that the state be barred from enforcing the law.

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