By BRYNA GODAR
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Planned Parenthood lacks standing to file a lawsuit challenging a Wisconsin law governing “webcam” abortions, a divided state appeals court ruled Wednesday.
But Planned Parenthood officials still counted it as a win, saying the 2-1 ruling from the District 4 Court of Appeals offers more clarification on the statute’s interpretation and puts concerns about criminal liability to rest.
“The appellate court’s decision allows Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin to confidently provide safe, non-invasive medication abortion services to women within the first nine weeks of pregnancy without fear of criminal prosecution,” Planned Parenthood said in a statement.
The 2012 law in question aimed to ban “webcam abortions,” in which physicians consult with patients via a video conferencing system and dispense abortion-inducing medication remotely. Wisconsin requires the prescribing physician to be in the room when a woman is given those drugs, as well as voluntary consent from the patient prior to an abortion.
In its lawsuit, Planned Parenthood sought clarification for its medication abortions protocol, which involves two drugs. The first is taken at the clinic and the other 24 hours later without the physician present. The organization wanted to know if the physician is required to be in the room when the drugs are dispensed or when they are administered.
Judge Mark Gundrum wrote in the majority opinion that under either interpretation of “given,” it’s unclear how physicians would be in any possible jeopardy. He noted that the physician-presence requirement is only one of the elements that must be violated for potential liability.
Planned Parenthood had also sought clarification about liability if a woman claims after an abortion that her consent wasn’t voluntary. The opinion dismissed it as an issue, saying that Planned Parenthood has failed to demonstrate physicians believed they would be held at fault.
Planned Parenthood Medical Director Kathy King is quoted in the opinion saying voluntary consent is already required under prior law and she didn’t feel threatened by the provision.