Judge Delays Enforcement of Wisconsin's New Abortion Law

After a hastily called hearing, a federal judge Monday put a 10-day freeze on a new state law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have hospital-admitting privileges.
July 9, 2013
 

After a hastily called hearing, a federal judge Monday put a 10-day freeze on a new state law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have hospital-admitting privileges.

In a 19-page opinion issued Monday evening, U.S. District Judge William M. Conley cited a "troubling lack of justification" for the law and said he would stay enforcement of the admissions provision until July 18, a day after a more deliberate courtroom hearing scheduled before him next week.

"There will almost certainly be irreparable harm to those women who will be foreclosed from having an abortion in the next week either because of the undue burden of travel or the late stage of pregnancy, as well as facing increasing health risks caused by delay," the judge wrote. "Since the state has failed to date to demonstrate any benefit to maternal health of imposing this restriction, there is no meaningful counterweight recognized by the United States Supreme Court to justify the act's immediate enforcement."

Conley's ruling does not affect a separate provision of the new law requiring women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion. At next week's hearing Conley could potentially choose to reinstate the full law or keep it blocked.

Abortion clinics filed the lawsuit in federal court in Madison on Friday immediately after Gov. Scott Walker privately signed the law, which went into effect Monday. The measure had been expected to cut the number of clinics offering abortions in Wisconsin from four to two and cause one of the remaining clinics to sharply reduce the number of abortions it provides, according to the operators of the clinics.

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