News Law and Policy

Judge Temporarily Blocks Wisconsin Admitting Privileges Law

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Late Monday a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order, blocking enforcement of a new law designed to practically eliminate abortion access in the state.

Monday evening a federal judge in Wisconsin granted a temporary restraining order to stop the enforcement of Wisconsin Act 37 (SB 206), a new law that bans doctors who lack admitting privileges at area hospitals from performing abortions. The law was challenged last week by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.

Introduced in the legislature on June 4, passed nine days later, and signed into law Friday by Gov. Scott Walker, the law also requires a mandatory ultrasound before a woman can get an abortion, but that provision of the law is not being challenged. The law was to take effect Monday.

In granting the temporary restraining order, the court said:

[T]here will almost certainly be irreparable harm to those women who will be foreclosed from having an abortion in the next week either because of the undue burden of travel or the late stage of pregnancy, as well as facing increasing health risks caused by delay. Since the State has failed to date to demonstrate any benefit to maternal health of imposing this restriction, there is no meaningful counterweight recognized by the United States Supreme Court to justify the Act’s immediate enforcement. … [T]he public’s interest is best served by imposing a temporary restraining order on enforcement of the admitting privileges requirement until this court can address its merits on a more complete record.

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The Wisconsin law imposes a requirement that abortion providers obtain hospital admitting privileges, a requirement opposed by medical experts, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Wisconsin’s bill was opposed by the Wisconsin Medical Society, the Wisconsin Hospital Association, the Wisconsin Public Health Association, the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians, the Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Boards, and the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health. If not blocked, abortion would only be available to women in Madison and Milwaukee, forcing women in many parts of the state to travel at least an extra 200 miles round-trip to access safe, legal abortion; under existing Wisconsin law they already must make that trip twice.

“This ruling is a step in the right direction for the women of Wisconsin who can now continue to make their own personal, private health care decisions,” said Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin President and CEO Teri Huyck in a statement. “We are confident that the Court will ultimately recognize if Act 37 is not blocked, it would unconstitutionally restrict the ability of Wisconsin women, including victims of rape and incest and women who are in need of an abortion to preserve their health, to access safe and legal abortions. ”

While the law is enjoined, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and Affiliated Medical Services will be able to maintain abortion services for women in Wisconsin at the four facilities offering abortion in Madison, Milwaukee, and Appleton while the parties make arguments to the court on the constitutionality of this law.

Abortion opponents have been pushing for hospital staff privileges requirements that apply only to physicians who provide safe, legal abortion as part of a national strategy to limit abortion access. The only remaining health center providing abortions in Mississippi was on the verge of closing because of a similar requirement after a law was passed there in 2012. The Mississippi law was recently enjoined by a federal district court because it would have shut down the state’s only legal abortion provider. Earlier this year, North Dakota enacted a staff privileges requirement, which could force the state’s only legal abortion provider to close as well. In addition, abortion providers in Alabama recently filed a suit to stop the enforcement of an admitting privileges requirement in that state, which has been temporarily restrained by a federal court.

Wisconsin already has more than a dozen laws restricting abortion, including some of the strictest regulations in the nation. Current law already requires that all women deciding on abortion be offered an ultrasound. Under Wisconsin’s current abortion restrictions, women would have to take these long trips twice and more than 24 hours apart, which may be logistically challenging and costly and could risk patients delaying medical care.

The restraining order will remain in place pending a full hearing on the legal challenge July 17.

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (R-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

News Abortion

Parental Notification Law Struck Down in Alaska

Michelle D. Anderson

"The reality is that some young women face desperate circumstances and potentially violent consequences if they are forced to bring their parents into their reproductive health decisions," said Janet Crepps, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "This law would have deprived these vulnerable women of their constitutional rights and put them at risk of serious harm."

The Alaska Supreme Court has struck down a state law requiring physicians to give the parents, guardians, or custodians of teenage minors a two-day notice before performing an abortion.

The court ruled that the parental notification law, which applies to teenagers younger than 18, violated the Alaska Constitution’s equal protection guarantee and could not be enforced.

The ruling stems from an Anchorage Superior Court decision that involved the case of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands and physicians Dr. Jan Whitefield and Dr. Susan Lemagie against the State of Alaska and the notification law’s sponsors.

In the lower court ruling, a judge denied Planned Parenthood’s requested preliminary injunction against the law as a whole and went on to uphold the majority of the notification law.

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Planned Parenthood and the physicians had appealed that superior court ruling and asked for a reversal on both equal protection and privacy grounds.

Meanwhile, the State of Alaska and the notification law’s sponsors appealed the court’s decision to strike some of its provisions and the court’s ruling.

The notification law came about after an initiative approved by voters in August 2010. The law applied to “unemancipated, unmarried minors” younger than 18 seeking to terminate a pregnancy and only makes exceptions in documented cases of abuse and medical emergencies, such as one in which the pregnant person’s life is in danger.

Justice Daniel E. Winfree wrote in the majority opinion that the anti-choice law created “considerable tension between a minor’s fundamental privacy right to reproductive choice and how the State may advance its compelling interests.”

He said the law was discriminatory and that it could unjustifiably burden “the fundamental privacy rights only of minors seeking pregnancy termination, rather than [equally] to all pregnant minors.”

Chief Justice Craig Stowers dissented, arguing that the majority’s opinion “unjustifiably” departed from the Alaska Supreme Court’s prior approval of parental notification.

Stowers said the opinion “misapplies our equal protection case law by comparing two groups that are not similarly situated, and fails to consider how other states have handled similar questions related to parental notification laws.”

Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) officials praised the court’s ruling, saying that Alaska’s vulnerable teenagers will now be relieved of additional burdensome hurdles in accessing abortion care. Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, CRR, and Planned Parenthood represented plaintiffs in the case.

Janet Crepps, senior counsel at CRR, said in a statement that the “decision provides important protection to the safety and well-being of young women who need to end a pregnancy.”

“The reality is that some young women face desperate circumstances and potentially violent consequences if they are forced to bring their parents into their reproductive health decisions. This law would have deprived these vulnerable women of their constitutional rights and put them at risk of serious harm,” Crepps said.

CRR officials also noted that most young women seeking abortion care involve a parent, but some do not because they live an abusive or unsafe home.

The American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Adolescent Medicine have said minors’ access to confidential reproductive health services should be protected, according to CRR.