ACLU and Planned Parenthood Sue Over Wisconsin Law That Would Close Half of State’s Abortion Clinics

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 5, 2013
CONTACT: Robyn Shepherd, ACLU national, 212-519-7829 or 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org; Sarah Karon, ACLU of Wisconsin, 608-469-5540; skaron@aclu-wi.org

MADISON, Wis. – The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin filed a lawsuit today challenging a state law that places medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers that would severely restrict women’s access to safe and legal abortion in a state where access is already heavily restricted. Two of only four health centers providing safe and legal abortion today could be forced to close.

The law requires every physician who performs an abortion at a clinic to have staff privileges at a local hospital. Doctors and leading medical groups, such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Wisconsin Public Health Association, oppose this requirement because it prevents women from getting safe, high quality health care. Federal courts in Alabama and Mississippi recently blocked staff privilege requirements like Wisconsin’s after the courts found that they were likely unconstitutional and would prevent women from obtaining abortions. A similar requirement is part of the package of bills currently generating substantial opposition and attention in Texas.

“This law will drastically limit a woman’s ability to obtain a safe and legal abortion in Wisconsin by imposing burdensome and medically unnecessary requirements on doctors that provide this essential care,” said ACLU of Wisconsin Legal Director Larry Dupuis. “This law was rammed through the legislature in a matter of days and now, with a stroke of his pen, the governor has put the very health and wellbeing of Wisconsin women and families at immediate risk."

The law would force Affiliated Medical Services in Milwaukee and Planned Parenthood’s health center in Appleton to shut down, and would force Planned Parenthood’s health center in Milwaukee to cut staff and severely curtail services.

Doctors who provide abortions are often unable to obtain hospital admitting privileges due to factors such as the hospital’s opposition to abortion or a requirement that physicians admit a minimum number of patients to the hospital. Because abortion is extremely safe and rarely results in hospitalization, it is impossible for physicians who provide abortions to meet the minimum requirement. Moreover, because of its immediate effective date, this law does not even allow doctors to try to obtain privileges before forcing them to stop providing abortions.

“With this eleventh hour attack on women’s health, Wisconsin has now joined the ranks of Mississippi, Alabama, and others, in a national campaign to outlaw abortion,” said Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "Enough is enough. Politicians can no longer be permitted to shut down clinics that provide safe abortions and prevent a woman from making the best decision for her and her family.”

Date: 
Friday, July 5, 2013