Federal court rules Wisconsin abortion law unconstitutional
Madison, Wis. — A Wisconsin law that requires abortion providers to get admitting privileges at nearby hospitals is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court panel ruled Monday.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel’s ruling comes in a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services. The groups argue that the 2013 law amounts to an unconstitutional restriction on abortion. The law has been on hold since a federal judge struck it down earlier this year.
The law’s supporters argue that the Republican-backed statutes would ensure continuity of care if a woman developed complications from an abortion and needed to be hospitalized.
But the lawsuit said the statute would force AMS’s clinic in Milwaukee to close because its doctors couldn’t get admitting privileges. That in turn would lead to longer waits at Planned Parenthood clinics. Therefore, the lawsuit maintained, the law amounts to an illegal restriction on abortions.
U.S. District Judge William Conley sided with the abortion providers in March, saying the law served no legitimate health interest. The Wisconsin Department of Justice later appealed to the 7th Circuit.
All three judges hearing the case peppered state attorneys with questions during oral arguments in October.
Judge Richard Posner told the state there was no rational basis for the law, saying it didn’t provide any health benefits for women seeking abortions and was clearly designed to close abortion clinics.
Judge Daniel Manion noted that complications could arise from abortions carried out through medication that women take at home. In those instances, complications could occur 100 miles or more away from the hospital where the doctor who gave her the medication has admitting privileges, he said.
The third judge on the panel, David Hamilton, questioned how the state could suggest it was acceptable for women to travel to Chicago or Minneapolis if the law forced the Milwaukee clinic to close.
Courts have blocked similar laws in six other states, meaning the issue may ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
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