Wisconsin and Alabama laws requiring abortion clinic doctors obtain hospital admitting privileges have landed before two federal judges, as challenges to recent state efforts to regulate the procedure make their way through the courts.
Attorneys for Milwaukee clinic operator Affiliated Medical Services argued the Wisconsin law will cause the facility to close because of burdens it faces in complying with its requirements. Proponents say the laws protect women’s health while abortion-rights advocates contend they are a thinly veiled attempt to restrict access to a legally protected option.
The trial in Madison federal court comes seven days after the start of a separate challenge to an Alabama law in a U.S. court in Montgomery. Similar measures have been challenged in North Dakota, Mississippi and Texas. While a federal judge in Austin last year struck down that state’s affiliation law, an appeals court overturned that decision in March, allowing the measure to be enforced and causing some clinics to close.
In Wisconsin, U.S. District Judge William Conley stayed implementation of the law last year, a decision upheld by a federal appeals court in Chicago, while the case proceeds. Clinic director Wendy Ashlock on Tuesday told Conley that she has spent 60 to 100 hours helping Bernard Smith, who performs most of its abortions, obtain the required affiliation. AMS performs more than 2,100 abortions annually. Complications occur in fewer than 2 percent of them, Ashlock said. AMS also said that it is the only clinic in the state that provides abortions after the 19th week. The state has countered AMS’s claims by arguing that abortion clinic doctors at other Wisconsin clinics have been able to get admitting privileges.