Admitting Privileges the New Hot Button Issue

In June 2013, the Wisconsin state legislature enacted Sonya’s Law which was signed by Governor Walker in July. Sonya’s Law has two main provisions:

  • Require that a woman seeking an abortion have an ultrasound to give her more knowledge about her unborn child.
  • Require that an abortion provider have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic for the safety of the woman.

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin (PPWI) and others immediately challenged the admitting privileges requirement in federal court, claiming that this portion of the new law would close two Wisconsin abortion clinics and reduce another to 50% of current operation. This challenge is a fascinating study in the thought process of PPWI. It was widely believe that the ultrasound requirement would be challenged, but when faced with a threat to its economic well-being, PPWI chose to fight the admitting privileges. The ultrasound requirement took effect immediately.

Why are admitting privileges important? For the safety of the woman, plain and simple. Here is a common scenario played out at abortion clinics here and in other parts of the country. The woman experiences complications from her abortion requiring immediate care at a hospital. An ambulance is called which takes the woman to a hospital. When she arrives, there is no one there who knows why she is there, what procedure she had, her medical history, etc. She is on her own to explain her situation. Is this good health care for women? We think not which is why Wisconsin Right to Life strongly supported the admitting privileges portion of Sonya’s Law.

Texas enacted a similar law requiring admitting privileges which was also challenged in federal court. The enjoined the law, stating that the law’s “admitting-privileges provision is without a rational basis and places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.” The Texas Attorney General appealed the injunction to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals which reversed the lower court and allowed the law to go into effect while the constitutionality is reviewed. The law’s challengers filed an emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court asking the Court to block the law. Yesterday, by a 5-4 vote, the Justices voted against the emergency application, allowing the law to continue in effect.

The Wisconsin law is also following a twisted path. The challenge to Sonya’s Law’s admitting privileges provision was filed in federal court in Madison where Judge William Conley enjoined the law. The Wisconsin Attorney General appealed the injunction to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals which has not ruled on the appeal. The trial scheduled in the lower court in Madison for November 25 -26 is delayed until the 7th Circuit rules.

Watch for new developments on what has become the newest hot button issue in the abortion wars.

Barbara Lyons

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