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Federal Judge: Wisconsin’s New Abortion Clinic Restrictions Are ‘A Solution In Search Of A Problem’

By Tara Culp-Ressler  

"Federal Judge: Wisconsin’s New Abortion Clinic Restrictions Are ‘A Solution In Search Of A Problem’"

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CREDIT: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

A federal judge has blocked Wisconsin’s new stringent anti-abortion law until November, when a trial will determine whether the legislation is constitutional. The measure — which Gov. Scott Walker (R) quietly signed into law over the July 4th holiday weekend — was first blocked from taking effect at the beginning of last month, and the temporary injunction against it continues to be extended.

The anti-choice measure would require the state’s abortion clinics to obtain admitting privileges from local hospitals. That type of unnecessary requirement is specifically intended to shut down abortion providers, since hospitals often deny them the privileges they need to continue operating. Nearly identical measures have been blocked from taking effect in a handful of other states, as federal judges have pointed out they’re “nearly impossible” for abortion providers to comply with.

So far, U.S. District Judge William Conley has been equally unimpressed with Wisconsin’s law. “On this record, the admitting privileges requirement is a solution in search of a problem,” Conley wrote in his most recent opinion. “Devoid of any documentation of a medical need or purpose in Wisconsin, the governor nevertheless signed the act on July 5, 2013.”

In earlier opinions, Conley has written he has “trouble discerning what the advantage is” to the state’s new law, and it will “almost certainly” cause “irreparable harm” to the women who would lose access to the two abortion clinics that would be forced to close.

Women’s health experts agree. Abortion clinics are already very safe, and — ironically — hospitals typically don’t want to enter into agreements with them because too few of their patients ever need to be transferred to the hospital. The major medical groups in Wisconsin didn’t support the new law, and the nation’s leading group of OB-GYNs has come out against any state-level legislation that mandates unnecessary admitting privileges for abortion providers.

One abortion clinic in Wisconsin, a provider that used to service the Green Bay region, recently announced that it will close at the end of August. If additional clinics are forced to close under the new state law, women may have to travel up to 250 miles to access abortion services.

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