Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) quietly signed new abortion restrictions into law on the Friday after the Fourth of July that will require “women seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound and ban doctors who lack admitting privileges at nearby hospitals from performing the procedures.” The law could force two state abortion clinics to close their doors and is already sparking legal challenges from reproductive health advocates:
The law takes effect Monday. Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit within hours of the signing alleging the bill is unconstitutional and asking for a temporary restraining order blocking the measure.
“What the Legislature has done is to set up a system where the ability to provide abortions is contingent on the decision of a private institution and that’s unconstitutional,” Planned Parenthood’s attorney, Lester Pines, said in an interview.
A spokeswoman for the state Department of Justice, which defends state laws, said agency attorneys would review the lawsuit and respond in court.
Leading medical groups also opposed the measures. The Wisconsin Medical Society, the Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Boards, the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians, the Wisconsin Hospital Association, and the Wisconsin Public Health Association all declined to endorse the proposals when Republicans fast-tracked the bills through the legislature in June.
The restrictions are part of a wave of legislative activity in the states that aims to severely limit women’s access to reproductive health services. According to data from the Guttmacher Institute, governors have approved more than 40 such proposals in 2013. The Associated Press notes that Walker, who may be considering a presidential bid in 2016, “didn’t sign the bill in public, instead sending out a statement early Friday afternoon saying the bill was now law.” The governor followed a similar strategy in 2012, when he enacted controversial bills to significantly limit access to abortion services and sex education on the eve of a holiday weekend and announced the laws in a press statement two days later.