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Supreme Court Won’t Intervene in Wisconsin Admitting Privileges Case

Jessica Mason Pieklo

On Monday, the Roberts Court denied a request by attorneys for the state to let a requirement that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital go into effect.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request by attorneys for the State of Wisconsin to review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit preliminarily blocking a portion of a Wisconsin law that requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

The one-line order denying review means the law remains blocked for now while the legal fight over its constitutionality takes place in the lower courts. A trial challenging the law recently concluded, and federal District Court Judge William Conley is expected to issue his ruling sometime in July.

Attorneys for the State of Wisconsin had hoped the Roberts Court would intervene and allow the law to go into effect. In their petition for review, the attorneys for the state argued the Seventh Circuit wrongly found the law created an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose abortion. Importantly, the petition for review also challenged the legal standing of abortion providers to bring lawsuits challenging laws that restrict access to abortion based on “maternal health” concerns. According to the state, when lawmakers regulate abortion based on those “maternal health” concerns, abortion providers and patients no longer share enough of a common interest in the law to allow doctors to challenge the restriction on their behalf.

“When maternal health regulations are challenged, abortion providers’ interests may not be aligned with their patients’ interests,” the attorneys for the state claimed.

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Monday’s order denying Wisconsin’s request means for now the ability of abortion providers to sue to challenge abortion restrictions on their patients’ behalf remains intact.

This is the second time the Roberts Court has refused to intervene in the battle over anti-choice hospital admitting privileges requirements. In November 2013, the Supreme Court refused to intervene in the legal fight over a similar admitting privileges requirement in Texas. That law was allowed to go into effect, and in March a panel of judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled the requirement constitutional. Reproductive rights advocates have asked the full Fifth Circuit to reconsider that decision.

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