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Wisconsin Asks Supreme Court to Revive Admitting Privileges Law

Jessica Mason Pieklo

A petition filed with the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday seeks to revive a state law requiring abortion doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

The state of Wisconsin on Tuesday asked the Roberts Court to step in and reinstate a law designed to close abortion clinics in the state.

Onetime presidential hopeful and Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed Act 37 into law July 5, 2013, mandating abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals in place by July 8.

The restriction is nearly identical to a Texas provision under consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

Almost immediately after Walker signed the measure into law, reproductive rights advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), sued, arguing the law violated constitutional equal protection guarantees by singling out abortion providers and their patients for restrictions not imposed on other medical procedures.

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A federal judge agreed and blocked the law from taking effect. Attorneys for the state of Wisconsin appealed, and in December 2013 the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that lower court decision.

“As in the Texas case before the Supreme Court, these laws are not about women’s health,” Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement following announcement of the appeal. “They are about restricting a woman’s access to constitutionally protected abortion care.”

Anti-choice supporters of admitting privileges requirements, like those at issue in both Wisconsin and Texas, claim that these restrictions support pregnant people’s health. However, federal courts have largely rejected that argument, finding that such restrictions unduly place barriers to care.

“In its ruling, the federal appeals court evaluated the medical evidence and agreed with the medical experts that Wisconsin’s law provides no health benefit to women seeking abortion care,” Chris Ahmuty, executive director of ACLU of Wisconsin, said in a statement. “The law intends to close clinics and prevent a woman who has decided to have an abortion from actually getting one.”

Advocates will have an opportunity to respond to Wisconsin’s petition before the Roberts Court decides whether it will take the case. Should the Court decide to take the case, it would likely be heard next term.

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