Excerpts from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that Wisconsin's requirement that doctors who perform abortions have hospital admitting privileges.
Although signed into law on a Friday (July 5, 2013), Wisconsin’s statute required compliance—the possession, by every doctor who performs abortions, of admitting privileges at a hospital within a 30-mile radius of each clinic at which the doctor performs abortions—by the following Sunday (July 7, 2013)....There was no way an abortion doctor, or any other type of doctor for that matter, could obtain admitting privileges so quickly, and there wouldn’t have been a way even if the two days hadn’t been weekend days...
The state tells us that “there is no evidence the [Wisconsin] Legislature knew...physicians would be unable to comply with the Act.” That insults the legislators’ intelligence....
As it happens, complications from an abortion are both rare and rarely dangerous—a fact that further attenuates the need for abortion doctors to have admitting privileges....
No documentation of a medical need for requiring abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges had been presented to the Wisconsin legislature when it was deliberating on the bill that became the statute challenged in this case. The only medical evidence that had been submitted to the legislature had come from a doctor representing the Wisconsin Medical Society— and she opposed requiring that abortion doctors obtain admitting privileges. The only testimony presented to the legislature that admitting privileges are important to continuity of care was presented by a representative of Wisconsin Right to Life who happens not to be a doctor....
Until and unless Roe v. Wade is overruled by the Supreme Court, a statute likely to restrict access to abortion with no offsetting medical benefit cannot be held to be within the enacting state’s constitutional authority....
A great many Americans, including a number of judges, legislators, governors, and civil servants, are passionately opposed to abortion—as they are entitled to be. But persons who have a sophisticated understanding of the law and of the Supreme Court know that convincing the Court to overrule Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey is a steep uphill fight, and so some of them proceed indirectly, seeking to discourage abortions by making it more difficult for women to obtain them. They may do this in the name of protecting the health of women who have abortions, yet as in this case the specific measures they support may do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion.
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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