Judge Strikes Down Scott Walker’s Anti-Abortion Law

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) CREDIT: AP PHOTO
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) CREDIT: AP PHOTO

A judge in Wisconsin struck down on Friday a state law that requires doctors performing abortions to secure admission privileges to nearby hospitals, temporarily blocking it.

U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled that the measure, signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker (R) in July of 2013, violated the 14th amendment. “The marginal benefit to women’s health of requiring hospital admitting privileges, if any, is substantially outweighed by the burden this requirement will have on women’s health outcomes due to restricted access to abortions in Wisconsin,” Conley wrote.

“While the court agrees with the State that sometimes it is necessary to reduce access to insure safety, this is decidedly not one of those instances,” he added. Walker defended the law during his 2014 re-election campaign with a TV add that claimed it increased safety and provided “more information for a woman considering her options.” “The bill leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor,” he said.

Senate Bill 26 made headlines last summer when a state official compared getting an abortion to buying a fancy car. “If I decided I’m going to buy a Mercedes-Benz but I cannot get financing for that car and I don’t have the funds to buy it, am I prevented from buying a Mercedes-Benz?” Assistant Attorney General Clayton Kawski asked an expert witness during a hearing.

Wisconsin is home to just four operating clinics, meaning that more than 95 percent of the state’s counties lack access to abortion services. Women are required to have an in-person counseling session with a doctor who must show them illustrations of a fetus at various stages of pregnancy, receive an ultrasound, and wait at least 24 hours before they’re allowed to return to the clinic. According to a ThinkProgress investigation, the process of obtaining an abortion in Wisconsin could cost up to $1,380 for a low-income single mother.

Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services sued the state over the law, arguing that it would have closed two abortion clinics. On Friday, they applauded the ruling. But a spokesperson for Walker promised to appeal the decision. “Our office will work with the attorney general to appeal this ruling, and we believe the law will ultimately be upheld,” said Walker aide Laurel Patrick. In 2010, Walker told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial he wishes to outlaw all abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest.

Judge Conely argued that there is no medical need for doctors to maintain admitting privileges and pointed out that “less than 0.65 percent of patients experienced a complication after an abortion and that only 0.06% required hospitalization as a result.”

“There was also no documented medical need or purpose for the act when presented to the legislature and the only physician who provided testimony regarding the act testified against it,” he wrote.