MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Abortion providers tried to persuade a federal judge Tuesday to strike down a Wisconsin law that requires them to have hospital admitting privileges, arguing the mandate is unnecessary, creates nearly insurmountable bureaucratic hurdles and could lead to risky delays for women seeking the procedures.
The law's supporters say it will ensure continuity of care if a woman develops complications during an abortion and has to be hospitalized. But Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services filed a lawsuit last summer arguing the requirement will force AMS's Milwaukee clinic to close because providers there lack admitting privileges. Planned Parenthood fears the closure could mean hundreds of additional women will turn to them, overwhelming their clinics and creating longer waits for abortions.
"It will definitely hurt the women in Wisconsin who are often the most vulnerable," Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin's medical director, Dr. Kathy King, testified.
Wisconsin is one of a handful of states that recently passed laws requiring doctors to have hospital admitting privileges. Abortion clinics in Alabama have filed a lawsuit similar to the one in Wisconsin.
Planned Parenthood and AMS filed their lawsuit July 5, the day Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed the legislation. U.S. District Judge William Conley has blocked the law from taking effect while he weighs the lawsuit. Conley began a bench trial Tuesday that's expected to last until at least Friday. He's not expected to issue a ruling for weeks, though.
The organizations initially argued that the law would force a Planned Parenthood clinic in Appleton and an AMS clinic in Milwaukee to close because doctors at both facilities lacked admitting privileges, placing an undue burden on women seeking abortions. AMS is the only facility in Wisconsin that provides abortions after 19 weeks of pregnancy; if it were to close, women who want abortions at or beyond that point would have to go out-of-state.
Doctors who work in the Appleton clinic have gotten their privileges since the lawsuit was filed. But AMS's doctors still have none.
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