For pro-choice La., eyes turn to Wisconsin

by Walter Pierce

A legal challenge to a law requiring abortion physicians to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals is under way in the Badger State.

If he hasn't already today, Gov. Bobby Jindal will definitely sign into a law a bill passed this session requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic where the procedure is done. This boiler-plate piece of legislation, which has also successfully run the gauntlet in several other state legislatures this year and in 2013, would shutter three of the five clinics in Louisiana, leaving only two in the Shreveport area open. That's a more than five-hour drive from New Orleans which will be the most heavily impacted.

Supporters of abortion rights in the Bayou State have cast a collective eye most recently to Wisconsin, where on Tuesday a trial began before a federal judge challenging the Badger State's version of the law. It too requires admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. Passed in 2013, the Wisconsin law has been on hold pending this week's trial following the lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and Affiliated Medical Services.

As The Chippewa Herald reports:

Planned Parenthood and Affiliated maintain that the medical grounds for the law "are not only feeble' but lacking.'?"

They wrote that their witnesses will show during the trial that abortion is a very safe procedure in which the risk of complications is low.

Most complications are treated at the clinic where the abortion was performed, and the need for hospital treatment is rare, they said.

And even where hospital treatment is needed, the lawyers wrote, the evidence will show that the admitting privileges requirement "is completely unnecessary, if not irrelevant."

Similar laws have been passed in Texas, Mississippi and Alabama. The measures in the former two states are under legal challenge right now and are not in effect. In Texas, however, a challenge to the admitting-privileges law was thrown out by a federal judge, but a federal appeals court issued a stay of the lone judge's order, meaning the admitting-privileges rule is now the law of the land in Texas, leading to the closure of at least half the state's clinics.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene in the Texas matter.

Up in Wisconsin, the trial over the Planned Parenthood/AMS lawsuit is expected to conclude Thursday, but a decision is not expected for another six weeks. In the meantime, abortion rights supporters will certainly file suit here in Louisiana over enforcement of the law awaiting Jindal's signature.