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Appeals Court Hears Arguments Over Wis. Admitting Privileges Law

Appeals Court Hears Arguments Over Wis. Admitting Privileges Law

December 5, 2013 — A federal appeals court on Tuesday heard oral arguments in a case regarding a temporarily blocked Wisconsin law (SB 206) that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, Bloomberg reports (Harris, Bloomberg, 12/3).

During the hour-long hearing, a three-judge panel questioned lawyers representing both the state and Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin (Tarm, AP/Huffington Post, 12/3).

Questions for State Attorney

All three judges mentioned the timing of when the law would have taken effect, noting that the process for obtaining admitting privileges typically takes at least a month. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) signed the measure into law on Friday, July 5, and it was set to take effect Monday, July 8, when it was blocked by a U.S. District Court judge (Bloomberg, 12/3).

U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Posner questioned why abortion clinics were singled out by lawmakers. He asked State Assistant Attorney General Daniel Lennington if the state plans to implement similar regulations in other areas. Posner also asked if there are records of women dying in Wisconsin after abortions. Lennington did not have an answer to either question.

Meanwhile, U.S. Circuit Judge David Hamilton raised questions about a provision in the bill that he said could allow relatives of a rapist to file a lawsuit against a doctor who performed an abortion without admitting privileges.

Questions for Planned Parenthood

In questioning Planned Parenthood attorney Carrie Flaxman, the judges asked how many abortion clinics would be affected by the law if it took effect.

Flaxman said she is unsure but noted that one doctor has been rejected for admitting privileges so far (AP/Huffington Post, 12/3).

U.S. Circuit Judge David Hamilton also asked Flaxman whether Planned Parenthood would drop its legal challenge if all of the doctors who sought the privileges obtained them within 12 months. She said the group would not, noting that the law would have an ongoing effect on clinic operations and the ability of doctors to perform abortions at more than one facility (Bloomberg, 12/3).

The judges did not immediately issue a ruling, and one is not expected for at least several weeks (AP/Huffington Post, 12/3).