Federal judge keeps blocking part of Wisconsin abortion law

Last month, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation restricting abortions. Above, Walker in June.
(Scott Bauer / Associated Press)

A federal judge has extended a preliminary injunction blocking part of a new Wisconsin law that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

The order, issued Friday by U.S. District Judge William Conley, stems from a lawsuit that Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services filed last month. The groups claim the law would shut two of the state’s four abortion clinics because providers at those facilities, in Appleton and Milwaukee, lack admitting privileges.

Conley issued a temporary restraining order July 8. This injunction blocks the requirement through a trial about the law’s constitutionality, which is set to begin Nov. 25.


Conley found that the health groups probably can show that the requirement presents a substantial obstacle to obtaining abortions.

“Given the substantial likelihood of success on the merits and of irreparable harm, the public’s interest is best serviced by imposing a preliminary injunction on enforcement of the admitting privileges requirement until this court can address its merits after trial,” he wrote in the 44-page opinion.

The judge also said he was skeptical that state attorneys could prove the mandate protects women’s health.

“Even if there were some evidence that the admitting privileges requirement would actually further women’s health, any benefit is greatly outweighed by the burdens caused by increased travel, decreased access and, at least for some women, the denial of an in-state option for abortion services.”

Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, an attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, described the law as one part of a broad attack on women’s rights to seek medical care.

Federal district courts blocked similar laws in Alabama and Mississippi this year.

This week, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law sweeping new restrictions on abortion clinics, including an admitting privileges mandate. A Texas law passed last month that requires admitting privileges for physicians who perform abortions also bans abortions at later than 20 weeks of pregnancy.


“This law is just one in an already too-long list of legislation passed this year and designed solely to interfere with a woman’s private medical decisions,” Kolbi-Molinas said in a statement. “We will not stand silent as extremist politicians attempt to take away women’s access to safe and legal abortion care.”


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