Planned Parenthood, ACLU Sue Over Wisconsin Abortion Law

The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood Federation of America sued Wisconsin seeking to block a new law that would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

The law, set to take effect July 8, was “rushed” through the legislative process last month, the groups said in a complaint filed today in federal court in Madison, the state’s capital. The measure would force two of the state’s four abortion providers to shut down, according to the complaint. A fifth clinic is set to close for unrelated reasons, according to the groups.

“The purpose and effect of the requirement, which is wholly unnecessary and unreasonable, is to impose a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking abortion prior to viability, in violation of their constitutional right to privacy,” lawyers for the groups said in the complaint.

Wisconsin is one of several states where legal battles are taking place over newly introduced hospital-privilege requirements for abortion providers. Federal judges in Alabama and Mississippi have issued orders stopping similar laws from being implemented after finding that they might result in substantial burdens for women seeking to terminate pregnancies.

Hospital Privileges

Doctors performing abortions often have difficulty obtaining hospital privileges because they can’t meet certain terms, such as a minimum number of patient admissions, according to the ACLU. Less than 0.3 percent of abortion patients require hospitalization, the groups said in their complaint. Hospitals may also have religious objections to offering admission privileges to abortion providers, the groups alleged.

The Wisconsin law would force clinics in Milwaukee and Appleton to close and cause Planned Parenthood to cut staff and services at another clinic in Milwaukee, the state’s most populous city. The changes would make the procedure unavailable after 19 weeks of pregnancy and leave much of the state without any abortion provider, according to the complaint.

A representative of Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen didn’t immediately return a phone message after regular business hours seeking comment on the lawsuit.

“Enough is enough,” said Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, in a statement. “Politicians can no longer be permitted to shut down clinics that provide safe abortions and prevent a woman from making the best decision for her and her family.”

The case is Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin Inc. v. Van Hollen, J.B., 3:13-cv-00465, U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin (Madison).

To contact the reporter on this story: Christie Smythe in Brooklyn at csmythe1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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