National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

Federal Judge Questions Wis. Admitting Privileges Law

Federal Judge Questions Wis. Admitting Privileges Law

June 3, 2014 — A federal judge on Friday expressed concern that a Wisconsin law (SB 206) requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals is too restrictive, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports (Richmond, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/30).

The law requires abortion providers in the state to have admitting privileges at a hospital located within 30 miles of the abortion provider's location. It has been on hold since last July, when U.S. District Judge William Conley temporarily blocked it after Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the measure in court.

Conley heard arguments in the case last week (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/28).

Judge's Comments

After the last witnesses testified on Friday, Conley said he is concerned that the law's requirement that abortion providers needed to secure admitting privileges within three days of its enactment on July 5 was too strict. Conley noted that the law did not allow a grace period for providers who did not have the privileges in place by July 8 and offered no recourse for those who could not obtain them.

In addition, the judge said the law could hurt abortion clinics' efforts to recruit new providers, who essentially would have to already have the privileges before joining a practice. "I remain troubled ... with the inflexibility of the law," he said (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/30).

Last week, Conley told a doctor at Affiliated Medical Services, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, to renew efforts to obtain admitting privileges, saying he is "bewildered" that the doctor and his attorneys have not received a response from the hospitals where he has applied for privileges. The doctor testified during the trial that he has been unable to satisfy the hospitals' requirement to provide data on his patients treated in hospitals because he has not had a patient requiring inpatient treatment in a decade.

According to the AP/ABC News, Conley is not expected to rule for at least another month and a half. It appears the ruling will largely hinge on whether the doctor can obtain the privileges and why or why not (Richmond, AP/ABC News, 5/29).