DOJ asks US justices to reinstate abortion law

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) – The state Department of Justice asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday to reinstate a Wisconsin law requiring abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

The Republican-authored law requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles. Supporters contend the law ensures continuity of care if a woman experiences complications following an abortion; opponents counter conservative-leaning hospitals won’t grant abortion providers such privileges, which makes the law a back-door method of limiting abortions.

Gov. Scott Walker signed the law in July. Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services filed a federal lawsuit in Madison the same day. They alleged the law would force the organizations to close two abortion clinics in Grand Chute and Milwaukee because providers at the facility lack admitting privileges, forcing women to drive hundreds of extra miles to find a provider.

U.S. District Judge Michael Conley issued a preliminary injunction blocking the law from taking effect while he ponders the case. He’s set a trial for May.

DOJ, which is controlled by Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, asked the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to lift the injunction but the court refused in December.

DOJ filed a petition with the Supreme Court asking it take to the case and rule that abortion providers don’t have standing to bring claims on behalf of their patients. The agency also argues that three other federal appellate courts have upheld admitting privileges as rationally related to state interest in maternal health.

Lester Pines, an attorney for Planned Parenthood, called the request “a long shot at best.” He said it’s clear that doctors can bring lawsuits on behalf of their patients if legislation impedes access to care. Regardless, he said, it’s unlikely the high court would take the case with a trial looming in May.

“It’s not really something that has a serious chance of being accepted by the Supreme Court,” Pines said.

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