Wisconsin lost its bid to begin enforcing a state law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, but the legal fight is far from over.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to lift a temporary injunction against the law while the case plays out in lower federal courts. Planned Parenthood and Affiliate Medical Services (AMS) filed suit on July 5, 2013, the same day Gov. Scott Walker signed the Republican-backed legislation. Three days later, U.S. District Judge William Conley placed a temporary injunction on the law, a decision upheld in December by a federal appeals court in Chicago. Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the injunction. As is custom, the Supreme Court did not explain its decision not to hear the case.
State officials expect a final ruling from Conley sometime this summer.
Barbara Lyons, executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life said the Supreme Court’s ruling wasn’t surprising. “It’s just a case of the Supreme Court saying let’s see what the lower courts have to say about this before we pick this up,” she said.
Wisconsin is one of five states—joining Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas—which recently passed laws requiring doctors to have hospital admitting privileges. Texas’ admitting privileges requirement faced a similar challenge in court, and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld the law in March. A spokeswoman in Van Hollen’s office told me the attorney general expects similar results in Wisconsin’s case.“We look forward to a final decision from Judge Conley in the coming weeks,” communications officer Dana Bruek said.
Planned Parenthood and AMS challenged the law arguing it would restrict access to abortions in Wisconsin because of the difficulties doctors would face in getting the hospital privileges. AMS contends the law will force its Milwaukee abortion facility to close because providers there lack admitting privileges. Closure of the AMS facility would effectively end abortions after 19 weeks in Wisconsin because no other facility offers them later than that, the plaintiffs said. Planned Parenthood’s facility in Appleton, Wis., obtained admitting privileges.
State attorneys counter that the law promotes a more thorough evaluation of abortion providers’ competency, ensures continuity of care if a woman develops complications requiring a hospital visit, and prevents providers from abandoning their patients. They also argue that there’s no longer a reason for the Appleton clinic to close and AMS’ providers haven’t tried hard enough to get admitting privileges.