Federal judge blocks new WI abortion limit law

posted at 12:01 pm on July 9, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

On Saturday, I noted that Gov. Scott Walker quietly signed into law a new measure that required ultrasounds prior to abortions and abortionists to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles in case of emergency.  Last night, a federal judge blocked the law on the basis of the latter:

A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday evening to block enforcement of a new Wisconsin law that bans doctors who lack admitting privileges at nearby hospitals from performing abortions.

U.S. District Judge William Conley granted the order following a hearing in a lawsuit filed Friday by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and Affiliated Medical Services. It alleged the requirement would unconstitutionally restrict the availability of abortions in the state, violates the U.S. Constitution’s due process guarantee and unconstitutionally treats doctors who perform abortions differently from those who perform other procedures.

The restraining order will remain in place pending a fuller hearing July 17. In his ruling, Conley said “there is a troubling lack of justification for the hospital admitting privileges requirement.” He said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states must prove that restrictions on abortion rights must be reasonably aimed at preserving the mother’s health.

“Moreover, the record to date strongly supports a finding that no medical purpose is served by this requirement,” he said.

On the bright side, this temporary injunction will not have a long shelf life, at least not until Walker’s administration has a chance to argue for the bill in court.  That will take place a week from tomorrow, where the hearing will have to address any disparities that may exist in laws regulating ambulatory surgical centers. On the other hand, the remarks of the judge and the imposition of the injunction suggests that the government will have an uphill fight in getting a positive ruling at the district court.

In Texas, the admitting privileges requirement exists for the entire class of providers, which is why the application of this requirement for abortions should be a no-brainer.  After all, that requirement protects patients by ensuring that the attending physician can transfer the patient to the hospital with continuity of treatment in case complications ensue, as well as speaks to the quality of the provider in the first place.  If such a requirement exists in Wisconsin, the plaintiffs will have to explain why patients in an abortion mill have a lower expectation of safety and expertise than botox clients, for example, and why such a requirement is overly burdensome for the entire class of ambulatory surgical centers.

For a group purportedly concerned with the health of women, it’s a little mystifying why they want to avoid common-sense safeguards on care, especially those routinely applied by states in all other areas of ambulatory-surgical care.

For some perspective on what’s at stake in Texas, if not Wisconsin, we have a CBO report showing that more than 30 babies a day are aborted past the 20-week gestation point:

Unborn babies who have reached at least 20 weeks of age in utero are aborted at a rate of about 30 per day in the United States, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The CBO has also concluded that aborting babies at 20 weeks or later in pregnancy saves money for the government-run federal-state Medicaid system.

The CBO made these determinations when doing its official “Cost Estimate” of a federal bill that would prohibit abortions at 20 weeks or later into pregnancy (except in cases of reported rape, incest against a minor or to save the life of the mother).

“Based on data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CBO estimates that, each year, about 11,000 abortions take place 20 weeks or more after fertilization,” said the CBO’s analysis of H.R. 1797, the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

That’s 11,000 late term abortions a year that would be prevented by the bill.

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