Federal Judge Hears Testimony In Abortion Law Challenge

Doctors At Abortion Clinics Say New Law Requiring Admitting Privileges To Hospitals Is Unneccessary

Above, the outside of the federal courthouse in Madison. Photo: Janet and Phil (CC-BY-NC-ND).

A federal judge in Madison is taking testimony in a challenge to a new state law that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic.

In this first day of a four-day trial, attorneys for the ACLU and Planned Parenthood have presented testimony from three doctors who perform abortions in different clinics in Madison, Milwaukee, and Appleton. All three said the law is unnecessary, and will force the closure of at least one clinic in Milwaukee that performs 2,500 abortions per year.

The doctors say that all the clinics they work for have formal transfer agreements with nearby hospitals to ensure that patients who experience complications during an abortion would receive be able to get emergency care. They said that getting admitting privileges is difficult because hospitals want guarantees that doctors will admit a minimum number of patients each year.

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Attorneys for the Department of Justice argued that the process of getting admitting privileges is not difficult, and in cross-examination tried to show that doctors in abortion clinics may just not be trying hard enough.

The testimony included graphic descriptions of what can happen when something goes wrong during an abortion. The doctors who testified say such complications happen very rarely, and that emergency procedures are in place to make sure patients get to a hospital and get the care they need.

Over the next three days, testimony is expected from doctors supporting the admission requirement, and a panel of experts will debate the medical necessity of having a doctor who performs an abortion also provide care at a hospital in case something goes wrong.

The Wisconsin law being challenged is identical to one already in place in eight other states that’s also been taken to court in both Mississippi and Alabama.