Wisconsin Will Defend Pro-Life Law Requiring Admitting Privileges for Abortionists at Supreme Court

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Mar 23, 2016   |   10:09AM   |   Madison, WI

Wisconsin state officials are asking the U.S. Supreme Court this spring to protect women’s health by upholding a law requiring that abortionists have hospital admitting privileges.

The appeal will be the state’s final step in fighting for its law after a U.S. appeals court struck down the law in November. Wisconsin enacted the law in June of 2013 to require that abortionists have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic. However, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin challenged it just a month later.

This week, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel confirmed to WUWM that the state is appealing the lower court’s decision.

Mel Barnes, the lawyer representing the Planned Parenthood abortion business, argued that the Wisconsin law does not protect women’s health, it merely puts “obstacles in the path of women seeking safe, legal abortion care in Wisconsin.”

However, pro-lifers and legislators countered that one way to ensure that safety is to require abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges in case of emergencies.

Heather Weininger, executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life, previously told LifeNews that the appeals court’s decision is detrimental to the care for women who suffer complications from an abortion.

“Wisconsin Right to Life is disappointed that women will continue to not receive the care they need under these frightening circumstances,” Weininger said.



Another pro-life leader in the state, Julaine Appling of Wisconsin Family Action told WUWM that the appeals court judges were “impertinent” to believe that they knew the motives of the legislators who passed the law.

“The Republicans that passed that law had a solid majority, there was unanimity amongst them, to put that type of protective measure in there for women, and I think it’s wrong for the judges to presume they know better than the people and those that we elect to represent us as to why we’re doing what we’re doing,” Appling said.

In July 2013, the admitting privileges provision was challenged in federal court by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Affiliated Medical Services and the ACLU of Wisconsin. Abortionists at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin were able to obtain admitting privileges in Appleton, Madison and Milwaukee, but other abortionists found it more difficult to acquire them. They were denied partly because of lack of peer review of their abortion practice.

In March 2015, a federal judge blocked the Wisconsin law, saying that it created a burden on “women’s health” by restricting access to abortion and that outweighed any “health benefits” of the law, according to Reuters.

In November, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled against the law. Judge Richard Posner claimed the law’s benefits to women’s health were “nonexistent,” according to the Associated Press. Posner argued that the law would increase the waiting times for abortions and push some women into second-trimester abortions.

However, 7th Circuit Judge David Manion disagreed, saying the law does protect women’s health and is constitutional.

“The solution to the plaintiffs’ problems is that they find more qualified doctors, not that the state relax — or that we strike down as unconstitutional — precautions taken by the state to protect the health and safety of pregnant women who have chosen to end their pregnancies,” Manion wrote.

The admitting privileges law is similar to a provision in a Texas law being challenged at the U.S. Supreme Court. In that case, an appeals court upheld the law after a lower court struck it down. A ruling on that case, expected in June, could affect the Wisconsin law.

The fate of abortion-related laws currently under consideration by the high court is uncertain because of pro-life Justice Antonin Scalia’s unexpected death. Scalia was considered to be one of the four justices most likely to support overturning Roe v. Wade if a case reached the high court. Three conservative justices currently are on the bench, and it remains uncertain how moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy will rule on abortion-related laws. Kennedy has ruled both for and against abortion laws in the past.