October 20, 2014

Court clarifies state law on abortion pills

A judge is providing more clarity on a 2012 state law that deals with prescribing medications that can cause an abortion.

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin challenged the law that requires doctors to meet in-person with a patient when prescribing drugs designed to terminate a pregnancy. CEO Teri Huyck says they were worried it also required doctors to be present when women took the medication, which is a problem because they usually require two doses. Hyuck says “the law was so vague, we weren’t sure how to comply with it.” She says the group worried that could result in criminal penalties or fines for their doctors.

The law is aimed at preventing so-called webcam abortions, a practice where doctors prescribe the drugs from another location. Those were not being used in Wisconsin prior to the bill’s passage, but Republicans and pro-life groups worried the method of consultation could make its way here in the future.

A Dane County judge issued a decision Thursday clarifying the law only applies to when an abortion-inducing drug is prescribed, and that doctors do not have to be present when the medications are taken. Hyuck applauded the decision, saying “we now know that our physicians don’t have to worry about being sent to jail.”

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen was critical of Planned Parenthood for taking the issue to court, saying the judge’s decision affirmed what his office has said all along. In a statement, Van Hollen said “The decision is in accord with what the law is and what this office has always said the law is. No one ever tried to enforce the law differently. Planned Parenthood’s case was a frivolous action from the beginning, first in their dismissed federal case and now this case. Courts of law shouldn’t be stages for political theater funded by taxpayer dollars, but that’s the bill that Planned Parenthood has rung up.”