May 28, 2014 — A federal judge on Tuesday heard arguments from abortion providers against a Wisconsin law (SB 206) that providers say is unnecessary and will force a clinic in Milwaukee to close, the AP/Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter reports (Richmond, AP/Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter, 5/27).
The law requires abortion providers in the state to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. It has been on hold since last July, when U.S. District Judge William Conley issued a temporary injunction against it after Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the American Civil Liberties Union challenged it in court. Conley later issued a preliminary injunction against the law until a hearing could be held on its constitutionality, and the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in January upheld the ruling (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/2).
Conley on Tuesday heard arguments from Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services protesting the state law. He is scheduled to hear arguments from the state's attorneys on Wednesday.
The plaintiffs argued that if the AMS clinic closes because its doctors cannot obtain admitting privileges, it would effectively end abortions after 19 weeks of pregnancy in the state because no other facility offers the procedure at that point in pregnancy.
In addition, physician Kathy King, medical director for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, said the closure of AMS' clinic would create substantial delays for women at Planned Parenthood's clinic in Milwaukee, where AMS' roughly 2,000 annual patients likely would go. She said that delays could extend up to 10 weeks.
Both King and Wendie Ashlock, director of AMS' clinic in Milwaukee, testified that the admitting privileges rules are unnecessary because abortion complications that require hospitalization are extremely rare. Ashlock said that just three of the 5,000 clinic patients in 2012 and 2013 required hospitalization, while King said that four patients out of 8,400 at Planned Parenthood's Milwaukee clinic were transferred to a hospital between 2009 and 2013.
Ashlock and King also testified about the difficulty of obtaining admitting privileges. Ashlock noted that it took a Milwaukee hospital nine months to reject admitting privileges requests for AMS' physicians, while King said it took her 10 months to obtain the privileges for Planned Parenthood physicians (AP/Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter, 5/27).