Planned Parenthood, ACLU in court today challenging Wisconsin anti-abortion law

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Wisconsin's law seeking to put further restrictions on abortion rights goes on trial today in a federal courtroom in Chicago.

The plaintiffs in this case are Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and Affiliated Medical Services. They are represented by attorneys from Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin, as well as the Wisconsin firm Cullen, Weston, Pines & Bach.

The law being challenged requires abortion providers to obtain staff privileges at local hospitals. Such laws have been opposed by medical groups such as the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists because rather than enhance patient safety they put women at risk.

Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the ACLU, said in a news release, "This law was designed by politicians, not doctors, with the single-minded goal of shutting down women’s health care centers and ending access to safe, legal abortion. Requiring a business arrangement that would decrease women’s access to high quality health care providers doesn’t improve women’s safety. Opponents are waging a stealth war on abortion, and women and families are paying the price."

Wisconsin has only four health centers where a woman can have an abortion. The law, which has been blocked while the legal case proceeds, would force one provider in Milwaukee to close immediately.

Physicians who provide abortion might not be able to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with their quality or credentials:

• Reasons include the religious affiliation of the hospitals.

• vVarious hospital bylaw requirements that the physicians cannot satisfy, such as minimum number of hospital admissions per year, which the physicians cannot satisfy because abortion is so safe.

• Requirements that the physician live within a certain distance of the hospital.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood of America, said in a news release, "We all want to protect women's health and safety. This law won't do that — in fact, it will do the opposite, which is why we are in court on behalf of the patients who turn to Planned Parenthood health centers for safe, compassionate, respectful care."