July 21, 2014 — A Wisconsin judge on Thursday ruled that a state law restricting medication abortion does not require a physician to be present when a woman ingests the drugs, the AP/Washington Times reports.
Circuit Court Judge Richard Niess also lifted a hold he put on the law (SB 306) last year while the case was pending. Although the state and Planned Parenthood, which challenged the law, agreed how it should be interpreted, jurisdictional issues had prolonged a resolution in the case (Bauer, AP/Washington Times, 7/17).
The 2012 law requires a physician to consult in person, not via webcam, with a woman seeking an abortion. The law also states that a physician must be physically present when administering medication abortion drugs, among other requirements (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/23/12).
The same doctor also must meet with the woman three times and complete steps to verify that she is seeking the procedure voluntarily. If a doctor failed to do so, he or she could face felony charges.
Niess also said in his ruling that as long as a doctor makes a good-faith effort to ensure that a woman was not forced into seeking an abortion, then the doctor should not face penalties under the law if it is later revealed that the woman was coerced (AP/Washington Times, 7/17).
Law Prompted Confusion
According to the Madison Cap Times, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin clinics in Madison, Milwaukee and Appleton temporarily stopped offering medication abortions because of confusion over the law but later resumed the service when the law was put on hold.
Planned Parenthood attorney Lester Pines noted the lawsuit aimed to ensure that doctors who were not present while a patient ingested the drug would not be prosecuted (VanEgeren, Madison Cap Times, 7/17). "Planned Parenthood doctors are following the law" and will continue to provide medication abortions, he said.
Meanwhile, state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (R) said his office always interpreted the law in the way Niess decided, adding, "No one ever tried to enforce the law differently" (AP/Washington Times, 7/17).