Wis. Judge Temporarily Blocks New Abortion Law Signed by Gov. Walker

In response to a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood, a federal judge decided on Monday to temporarily block a new abortion law in Wisconsin, which was signed by Gov. Scott Walker on Friday.

U.S. District Judge William Conley determined in his 19-page ruling on Monday evening that one provision of the restrictive abortion law, known as Senate Bill 206/ACT 37 or "Sonya's Law," should be temporarily blocked due to its requirement of admitting privileges for abortion doctors.

Conley granted a temporary restraining order for the law until further hearings take place on July 17.

One portion of the law requires abortion doctors in the state to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 minutes of their clinic in case of an emergency. Conley wrote in his ruling that this portion of the law treats doctors performing abortions differently than doctors performing other procedures and also does not seek to preserve the mother's health.

"There is a troubling lack of justification for the hospital admitting privileges requirement," Conley wrote in his review.

Conley went on to write that a previous U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the 1992 Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey case requires states to focus on the preservation of the mother's health when determining abortion laws.

"Moreover, the record to date strongly supports a finding that no medical purpose is served by this requirement," Conley continued.

Conley also wrote in his ruling that had Senate Bill 206 gone into effect on Monday as initially planned, women seeking abortions north of Madison would be forced to travel longer distances, as the new law would force the closure of the Appleton and Milwaukee abortion clinics because they are not within 30 miles of a hospital with admitting privileges.

Attorneys arguing against the law told Conley that women with abortions scheduled for this week would be forced to cancel their appointments since their clinics did not meet the law's new standards.

The judge noted that many of the women with these upcoming appointments are poor, and therefore seeking a clinic farther away would prove burdensome.

"There will almost certainly be irreparable harm to those women who will be foreclosed from having an abortion in the next week either because of the undue burden of travel or the late stage of pregnancy, as well as facing increasing health risks caused by delay," he wrote.

"Since the state has failed to date to demonstrate any benefit to maternal health of imposing this restriction, there is no meaningful counterweight recognized by the United States Supreme Court to justify the act's immediate enforcement," Conley ruled.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed the abortion bill into law on Friday, and Planned Parenthood and the Affiliated Medical Services almost immediately filed a lawsuit against the state attorney general, arguing that the law violates the Constitution's due process guarantee, places an undue burden on women seeking abortions, and unconstitutionally treats abortion doctors differently than other doctors.

Senate Bill 206 also includes a provision which requires mothers to receive an ultrasound of their fetus before undergoing an abortion procedure, but this section of the law was not contested by the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Those in support of the law argue that the purpose of the restrictions is to ensure women who experience complications during an abortion have easy access to hospitals where they may receive care from a specialist, while the ultrasound provision guarantees a woman will have the opportunity to view her fetus before she chooses abortion.

"Sonya's Law will empower women to make truly informed decisions regarding how they will proceed with their pregnancies and will protect the lives of women who experience complications after their abortions," Susan Armacost, legislative director for Wisconsin Right to Life, said in a statement.

Opponents of the law argue that its purpose is to make it more difficult for women to receive abortions in the state, as it would force the closing of clinics.

Terry Huyck, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, said in a statement that his group is confident the court with ultimately rule against the law.

 "We are confident that the Court will ultimately recognize if ACT 37 is not blocked, it would unconstitutionally restrict the ability of Wisconsin women, including victims of rape and incest and women who are in need of an abortion to preserve their health, to access safe and legal abortions," Huyck said, as reported by The Huffington Post.

The bill initially passed the Republican-controlled Senate with a 17 to 15 vote and the Republican-controlled Assembly with a 56 to 39 vote.

A more thorough hearing regarding the law will take place July 17, during which Judge Conley could rule to reinstate the entire law or continue its blockage.

Several states have recently been addressing pro-life legislation, including Texas and North Carolina, where opponents and supporters of abortion have engaged in lengthy battles regarding new legislation.

On Monday in North Carolina, 64 people were arrested in a protest at the state capitol regarding a bill that was passed by the state Senate last week and includes higher standards for abortion clinics and stricter regulation for the administering of abortion-inducing medication.

Today in Texas, House lawmakers are debating a bill which would make abortion illegal after 20 weeks of pregnancy, giving the state some of the toughest abortion restrictions in the country.

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