Planned Parenthood Fighting in the Courts and in State Legislatures Across the Country to Block Sweeping Abortion Bans
New York, NY –Wisconsin has joined the list of states drastically restricting access to safe and legal abortion through targeted restrictions of abortion providers that medical experts agree do not enhance patient health or safety. A bill before Governor Scott Walker could end abortion access at two abortion providers in the state, including a Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin health center in Appleton, as well as Affiliated Medical Services in Milwaukee, almost immediately, as well as severely restrict access at the remaining health centers. Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, represented by the Wisconsin firm Cullen Weston Pines & Bach and attorneys for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, announced today it will file suit in federal court to block the law as soon as Governor Walker signs the legislation into law. If the law is not blocked, abortion would only be available to women in Madison and Milwaukee, forcing women in many parts of the state to travel, in many instances, at least an extra 200 miles roundtrip away from home to access safe and legal abortion — a trip existing Wisconsin law already forces them to make twice.
“Whether during special legislative sessions, at midnight votes, or in courthouses across the country, Planned Parenthood is fighting deeply unpopular and dangerous attacks on women’s health every step of the way,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “The health and safety of American women are at stake — and that is why this unconstitutional law cannot be allowed to stand.”
The Wisconsin legislation signed today imposes a requirement that abortion providers obtain hospital admitting privileges, a requirement opposed by medical experts including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)
. Wisconsin’s bill was opposed by
the Wisconsin Medical Society, the Wisconsin Hospital Association, the Wisconsin Public Health Association, the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians, the Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Boards, and the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health.
Hospital staff privileges are a form of granted permission allowing a doctor to admit and treat patients in a specific hospital. Having staff privileges is not a requirement for being a licensed medical provider, and is not a designation of the quality of a provider. Every hospital has its own process and requirements for granting staff privileges. Physicians who provide safe and legal abortion at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin’s health center in Appleton may be unable to obtain hospital privileges for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with their quality or credentials, including the religious affiliation of the hospitals, and the bylaws of local hospitals. Given the immediate effect of the Wisconsin law when signed, the physicians do not even have time to attempt to obtain privileges.
“Requiring doctors who provide abortions to have staff privileges at a nearby hospital won’t make women safer and, in fact, could jeopardize their health by depriving women in Wisconsin access to safe, high-quality health care,” explained Anne Davis, M.D., MPH., an obstetrician-gynecologist who is the consulting medical director at Physicians for Reproductive Health. “Legal abortion is extremely safe. In fact, it is one of the safest medical procedures in the United States. Abortion complications are rare, but those that do occur are usually handled in the health center that provided the abortion. In the exceedingly rare event that a complication after an abortion requires hospital-based care, a woman would be provided emergency care at a hospital, and staff privileges at that hospital have no impact on a woman’s ability to receive high quality, timely care.”
Planned Parenthood attorneys recently won a temporary restraining order against an admitting privileges requirement in Alabama that threatened to shut down three of the state’s five health centers providing safe and legal abortion. The district court agreed the law would impose a substantial obstacle to a woman’s access to safe and legal abortion. The court wrote, “[G]iven the evidence so far of the near impossibility of procuring abortion doctors who can meet the staff-privileges requirement, the law threatens a permanent destabilizing effect on the provision of abortions in this State, as clinics will have to constantly struggle under threat of closure or ceasing services to maintain a medical staff that is qualified under the law. Such pressure could render the consistent provision of abortion services in Alabama a Sisyphean effort. […T]he evidence raises the specter of an Alabama in which women are unable to exercise this due-process right at all.”