Wis. Doctors Apply for Hospital Admitting Privileges To Prove Futility of New Law

August 1, 2013 — Seven doctors who perform abortions in Wisconsin are applying for hospital admitting privileges as a way to show they cannot comply with a new state law (SB 206) that requires them to have the privileges, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Under the law, abortion providers are required to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles (Ahmed, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 7/30).

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge William Conley extended for at least another week a temporary hold on the law while a court challenge continues. Conley first blocked the law on July 8 -- the day it was supposed to take effect -- and extended the order the following week. The latest extension will continue until Aug. 8, unless the judge decides to issue a preliminary injunction to block the law for a longer period. The case is scheduled to go to trial in November (Marley/Stein, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 7/31).

Doctors Test Law

In the meantime, Nicole Safar -- policy director at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, which is a plaintiff in the lawsuit -- said she is helping four of her organization's doctors apply for admitting privileges at two dozen hospitals near its Milwaukee and Appleton clinics. Three doctors who perform abortions at Affiliated Medical Services -- another plaintiff in the lawsuit -- also are applying for privileges, according to Larry Dupuis, legal services director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, which is representing Affiliated in court.

Although supporters of the law say admitting privileges ensure doctors will provide the best care in an emergency, attorneys for the plaintiffs argue that hospitals will not grant them because of religious affiliations, quotas on the number of patients doctors must admit or requirements that doctors live nearby.

The Wisconsin Medical Society and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have said that ensuring abortion providers have arrangements for emergency patient transport to a hospital, not admitting privileges, is the best practice.

Safar said, "Going through the process of trying to obtain as many privileges as we can helps prove our case that they're unrelated to the work that we do."

Plaintiffs' attorneys also argued that the provision violates due process because the application and credentialing process to obtain admitting privileges can take two to four months, and the law gave physicians about a month to comply (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 7/30).