The Wisconsin Attorney General is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the 7th Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision invalidating a state law that had required abortion doctors to obtain hospital-admitting privileges to continue their practice.
The attorney general’s office and state Attorney General Brad Schimel faulted the 7th Circuit in part for being almost the only court of appeals to overturn such an admitting-privileges law on facial grounds. Separately, it contended that the 7th Circuit had improperly considered speculations about what Wisconsin lawmakers’ motives had been for passing the state’s law.
Wisconsin is one of a group of states that have passed admitting-privileges laws in recent years. Many of the laws have been challenged in court, and one case concerning similar matters — Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt — is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Wisconsin Attorney General’s Office has argued that the Supreme Court should uphold the Texas admitting-privileges law that is being challenged in the Hellerstedt case.
Should that Texas law be overturned or remanded for consideration by a lower court, though, Wisconsin’s law should still be taken up for review by the Supreme Court, the Attorney General’s Office contended in Tuesday’s brief. The reason: attorney general officials think that Wisconsin’s law did not receive an “objective” review from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and instead think it was invalidated in large part because the appellate judges were questioning the motives of the lawmakers who passed it.
Department of Justice officials also argued that the appellate court should have upheld the law because most Wisconsin abortion providers have proved capable of obtaining admitting privileges. Those who haven’t got them, the Attorney General’s Office argued, have simply not tried hard enough.
In contrast, the 7th Circuit, which handed down its decision on Nov. 23, found that Wisconsin’s admitting-privileges law could impose an “undue burden” on women seeking to exercise their right to obtain an abortion. Critics had warned the new requirements could lead to the shutting down of an abortion clinic in Milwaukee — one of four in the state.
In a response to the Attorney General’s brief, the Wisconsin chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union argued that courts have found that admitting-privilege laws do not live up to their promise of protecting the health of women.
“In its ruling, the federal appeals court evaluated the medical evidence and agreed with the medical experts that Wisconsin’s law provides no health benefit to women seeking abortion care and instead is intended to close clinics and prevent a woman who has decided to have an abortion from actually getting one” Chris Ahmuty, executive director of ACLU of Wisconsin, said in a statement.
Wisconsin lawmakers passed the admitting-privileges law in 2013. The law was quickly challenged by the state chapters of Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and other groups.Follow @TDR_WLJDan