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Planned Parenthood, ACLU Quickly Challenge Wis. Hospital Admitting Privileges Law

Planned Parenthood, ACLU Quickly Challenge Wis. Hospital Admitting Privileges Law

July 8, 2013 — Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the American Civil Liberties Union on Friday filed a lawsuit seeking to block a Wisconsin law that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, the Washington Post reports (Smythe, Washington Post, 7/6). The groups filed the suit in federal court in Madison shortly after Gov. Scott Walker (R) signed the bill (SB 206) into law (O'Brien, Reuters, 7/5).

The law was scheduled to take effect on Monday (Marley, Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, 7/5). In addition to the admitting privileges requirement, the law requires a woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound at least 24 hours before the procedure. It also requires the doctor or individual performing the ultrasound to try to detect the fetal heartbeat, as well as describe the size, location and number of fetuses, and any body parts or organs that are visible. The woman would not be required to look at the ultrasound images or heartbeat monitor, and the bill would not apply in cases of rape, incest or emergencies (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/17).

Key Arguments

Lawyers for PPFA and ACLU asked U.S. District Judge William Conley to immediately block the law, arguing that it violates a woman's right to an abortion and unconstitutionally discriminates against doctors who perform abortions.

The suit noted that the admitting privileges requirement would force Planned Parenthood's clinic in Appleton and Affiliated Medical Services' clinic in Milwaukee to close. In addition, Planned Parenthood's Milwaukee clinic would have to offer 50% fewer abortions (Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, 7/5).

"The purpose and effect of the requirement, which is wholly unnecessary and unreasonable, is to impose a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking abortion prior to viability, in violation of their constitutional right to privacy," according to the suit (Washington Post, 7/6).

In a statement released by Planned Parenthood, ob-gyn Anne Davis said that admitting privileges "won't make women safer and, in fact, could jeopardize their health by depriving women in Wisconsin access to safe, high-quality healthcare."

Supporters Defend Law

Meanwhile, supporters of the bill said it is necessary to help women make knowledgeable decisions.

Tom Evenson, a spokesperson for governor, said, "This bill improves a woman's ability to make an informed choice that will protect her physical and mental health now and in the future" (Reuters, 7/5).

Susan Armacost, legislative director of Wisconsin Right to Life, said, "We are confident this bill will be held to be constitutional" (Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, 7/5).