Posted by: JanF | August 3, 2013

Abortion provider admitting privileges requirement: “… a solution in search of a problem”

On Friday, U.S. District Judge William Conley issued a preliminary injunction blocking the new ALEC Wisconsin anti-choice law from going into affect.

A federal judge on Friday blocked until at least November a state law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges.

It was the fourth time U.S. District Judge William Conley has temporarily blocked the law from going into effect. His 44-page decision placed the law on hold until the November trial that will determine whether the law is constitutional.

The law requires that doctors to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of where they perform the procedure. […]

If the law goes into effect, it will close Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Appleton and Affiliated’s clinic in Milwaukee because doctors there do not have admitting privileges at hospitals that are near enough to the clinics. Planned Parenthood’s Milwaukee clinic would operate at half capacity.

From Judge Conley’s opinion (pdf):

“For reasons previously discussed, defendants are unlikely to establish as a matter of fact that there is a reasonable relationship between the admitting privileges requirement and maternal health. Defendants’ position may have some merit if they could articulate a single, actual instance where a provider’s lack of admitting privileges had been a factor in an abortion patient’s negative outcome or the ability to properly consider or sanction a responsible provider for such an outcome in Wisconsin.”

“On this record, the admitting privileges requirement remains a solution in search of a problem.”

“Even if there were some evidence that the admitting privileges requirement would actually further women’s health, any benefit is greatly outweighed by the burdens caused by increased travel, decreased access and, at least for some women, the denial of an in-state option for abortion services.”

(bolding added, italicization from the opinion)

Of course, the taxpayers of Wisconsin (how come ALEC does not cover these costs?) will be paying to defend this onerous law in the federal courts, not just at the trial scheduled for November, where the “state” is unlikely to prevail, but the inevitable appeal to the 7th Circuit.

Wisconsin is one of 12 states which have laws requiring hospital admitting privileges (or access to doctors with admitting privileges) for abortion providers. From the Guttmacher Institute (pdf), current TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) Laws:

15 states require abortion providers to have some affiliation with a local hospital.
– 3 states require that providers have admitting privileges.
– 12 states require providers to have either admitting privileges or an alternative arrangement, such as an agreement with another physician who has admitting privileges.

Federal judges have blocked the requirements in Alabama and Mississippi and a similar law is awaiting a ruling in North Dakota. Two other states which have the requirement were never challenged and are in effect (Utah and Tennessee) and two more states have passed the laws but not yet developed the regulations (Texas and Arizona).

One interesting thing to note is that should these cases make it to the respective appeals courts and the restrictions stricken, it will become established precedent in those circuits. That would make it unlikely that other states within those circuits would be able to apply such restrictions. Should it be further appealed to the Supreme Court and be declared an onerous burden, the restriction would be removed from all state laws.

From Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood on the ruling:

“In Wisconsin, Texas, North Carolina and elsewhere we are seeing an unprecedented wave of attacks on women’s health, and people are fed up with it,” Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards said in a statement following Conley’s ruling.

Tweeting Friday night:

Overreaching by Republicans into issues of women’s health and reproductive rights will have consequences come election time. Instead of (just) getting mad, let’s get even.

2014 is a gubernatorial election year in Wisconsin and Texas, two states who have taken aim at women.

Let’s let them hear us roar … from the voting booth.

Elections Matter. When we vote, we win. And so do women and their families.



  1. Sensing a losing issue, GOP in key states tries to slow anti-abortion push

    ‘‘It’s a huge mistake if your ear is not in tune where people are,’’ said Republican state Sen. Dale Schultz in Wisconsin, who is trying to fend off more abortion legislation in the state’s GOP-controlled legislature, even though he says he personally supports it. ‘‘And we were pushing people too fast. All we’re going to do is panic people and this is going to blow up if we don’t begin to moderate on some of this stuff.’’ […]

    GOP leaders say they are worried about alienating women and young people, who disproportionately favor abortion rights. These groups voted in lesser numbers than usual for GOP candidates last year. Democratic President Barack Obama won the women’s vote by 11 percentage points.