A federal district judge has struck down a Wisconsin law that requires doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. In the decision released late Friday, Judge William Conley found that law is unconstitutional and issued a permanent injunction against its enforcement. Conley wrote that the law is “a solution in search of a problem, unless that problem is access to abortion itself.”
The law was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2013, but was put on hold by Conley shortly after it was signed into law. At the time, the judge cited concerns about “a troubling lack of justification for the hospital admitting privileges requirement.” He echoed those concerns again in Friday’s decision, saying “the only reasonable conclusion is that the legislation was motivated by an improper purpose, namely to restrict the availability of abortion services in Wisconsin.”
Sponsors of the measure argued that it is needed to protect the continuity of care for women seeking an abortion, in the event complications arose during the procedure that would require them to be hospitalized. Wisconsin Right to Life executive director Heather Weininger said the ruling would be “detrimental to providing continuity of care for women who suffer complications from an abortion.”
Opponents of the bill, including Planned Parenthood, contend it would place an unnecessary restriction on their clinics, which could force at least one facility to close down. There are only four clinics in the state that provide abortions.
Planned Parenthood applauded Friday’s decision. In a statement, Medical Director Dr. Kathy King called the ruling “a victory for the women of Wisconsin who can continue to access safe, legal abortion without government interference.”
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request last summer to hear an appeal of the temporary injunction that blocked the law. In a statement, a spokesman for Attorney General Brad Schimel said “We are reviewing the decision and are working with the Governor and legislative leaders to prepare an appeal. “