MADISON, Wis. (AP) – A woman who says she needed emergency surgery following an abortion testified in federal court Wednesday that she felt abandoned, underscoring state attorneys’ arguments that a Wisconsin law requiring abortion providers get hospital admitting privileges would ensure better care.
The second day of a bench trial in front of U.S. District Judge William Conley began with testimony from Lena Wood of Oshkosh. She said she was hospitalized after an abortion nearly 20 years ago and the provider never followed up with her.
“I literally felt abandoned and mistreated,” said Wood, who also submitted a statement against abortion to the state Legislature in 2008.
Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services filed a federal lawsuit last year challenging the mandate for admitting privileges, arguing that there’s no medical basis for it and the law would force AMS’s Milwaukee abortion clinic to close because doctors there lack privileges, creating an unconstitutional burden on women seeking the procedure.
State attorneys maintain the requirement ensures abortion providers can’t abandon their patients if they suffer complications and need to go to a hospital. They argue the law will force providers to communicate with emergency room doctors and generate more oversight as hospitals sift through their records as they weigh providers’ privilege applications.
Conley has blocked the requirement from taking effect while he considers the lawsuit. Much depends on whether the state can show the law has a rational medical basis such as improving continuity of care. State Justice Department attorneys spent Wednesday trying to make the case that such continuity is sorely lacking.
Wood testified she got pregnant in 1995 when she was 19. Her boyfriend wanted her to get an abortion, she said, so she had the procedure done at Planned Parenthood’s Appleton clinic. She said grew extremely ill afterward but no one gave her a telephone number for the Appleton clinic to follow up. She contacted another Planned Parenthood clinic in Oshkosh but said staffers there told her to take aspirin.
She said she ended up needing emergency surgery and spent 12 days in intensive care in a hospital. She never spoke with the doctor who performed the abortion, she testified.
Under cross-examination from Planned Parenthood attorney Lester Pines, Wood acknowledged that she doesn’t understand her medical records. He asserted she was really hospitalized for a urinary tract infection. He also noted she has become an activist against abortion, has told her story to the state Legislature and the state’s consultant on the case recruited her to testify.
“You tell your story when the Holy Spirit moves you,” Pines told her.
The state also called Milwaukee obstetrician James Linn. He testified that 10 years ago a colleague asked him to assist on an emergency hysterectomy for a woman suffering from a lacerated uterus after an abortion at AMS’s clinic. He said his colleague tried to reach the doctor who performed the abortion but the doctor never called back.
“I find that appalling,” Linn said. “To me that’s abandoning a patient.”
He said requiring providers to get admitting privileges would ensure good follow-through and coordination during patient transfers.
Linn said he later learned the provider’s name and the provider did have admitting privileges at a different Milwaukee hospital than where the woman patient was taken. Conley pointed out that the provider would have been in compliance with the new law.
The trial is expected to continue through Friday. Conley isn’t expected to issue a ruling for at least a month and a half, however.