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Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks New Wis. Admitting Privileges Law

Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks New Wis. Admitting Privileges Law

July 9, 2013 — A federal judge on Monday issued a temporary injunction to block part of a Wisconsin law that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, Reuters reports (O'Brien, Reuters, 7/8). The law was scheduled to take effect on Monday.

On Friday, shortly after Gov. Scott Walker (R) signed the bill (SB 206) into law, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in federal court in Madison seeking to block the measure.

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, 7/8).

Monday's Decision

U.S. District Judge William Conley's ruling on Monday does not apply to the ultrasound provisions (Reuters, 7/8). However, Conley ordered that the admitting-privileges requirement be suspended until a July 17 hearing (AP/Politico, 7/8).

The judge wrote that if the requirement were enforced, there would "almost certainly be irreparable harm to those women who will be foreclosed from having an abortion in the next week either because of the undue burden of travel or the late stage of pregnancy, as well as facing increasing health risks caused by delay" (Reuters, 7/8).

Conley also wrote that the state is unlikely to meet its burden of proof that the requirement will improve care for patients who experience problems following an abortion. He said the evidence suggests "the current system already handles efficiently the very low percentage of women seeking abortions with serious complications."

He added even if the burden of proof is met, the plaintiffs are likely to succeed in proving that the law creates undue burdens for women seeking abortions.

Reaction

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin President and CEO Terry Huyck said in a statement, "This ruling is a step in the right direction for the women of Wisconsin who can now continue to make their own personal, private health care decisions." She added, "We are confident that the Court will ultimately recognize if ACT 37 is not blocked, it would unconstitutionally restrict the ability of Wisconsin women, including victims of rape and incest and women who are in need of an abortion to preserve their health, to access safe and legal abortions" (AP/Politico, 7/8).

Susan Armacost -- legislative director of Wisconsin Right to Life -- said, "We are not surprised [by the judge's ruling], but we are absolutely confident that this law will be upheld" (Reuters, 7/8).