The Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled Monday that the Wisconsin law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals is unconstitutional.
Had the law passed, it would have been a blow to abortion access in a state that now has three providers, or about one provider per million women.
“There is not a rational basis for your statute because it doesn’t provide any health benefits for women seeking abortion,” Judge Richard Posner said during oral arguments. He added that the law had nothing to do with women’s health and was a “clear flouting of Roe v. Wade.”
The 2-1 decision comes at a time when the constitutionality of targeted abortion provider regulations, or TRAP laws, are under national scrutiny. The Supreme Court recently decided to take on Texas’ HB 2, an omnibus abortion bill that contains multiple restrictions, including admitting privileges and ambulatory surgical center requirements. If upheld, it could reduce the number of clinics in Texas to ten.
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The state of women’s health care in Wisconsin is similarly dire, as the state’s GOP-majority legislature has tried to pass a number of anti-choice laws in recent years.
Affiliated Medical Services, Wisconsin’s only independent abortion provider, would have been forced to close had the Republican-supported admitting privileges law been upheld. It is the only provider in the state that will perform abortions after 19 weeks’ gestation.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed a 20-week abortion ban in June that criminalizes abortion after 20 weeks’ fertilization. The bill prohibits any person from performing or inducing, or attempting to perform or induce, an abortion when the fetus is considered to be capable of experiencing pain, which according to the bill is 20 weeks post-fertilization. Like many laws aimed at blocking abortion access, including the admitting privileges requirement, the bill is based on dubious science. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says there is no medical evidence to prove that a fetus feels pain at this time.
The medical community agrees that requiring admitting privileges is unnecessary, as abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the United States, and that other, riskier procedures do not have the same requirements.
Teri Huyck, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, applauded the court’s ruling.
“At Planned Parenthood, our top priority is patient safety. As the court affirmed, this law does nothing to enhance the health and safety of patients,” Huyck said. “The intention of this law was to put obstacles in the path of women seeking safe, legal abortion care in Wisconsin.”