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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Attorney general files brief in support of abortion admitting privileges

Some say policy would safeguard women’s health, others say it could be risky
Marissa Haegele

After filing a brief in support of Texas’ abortion regulations in January, Attorney General Brad Schimel looks to restore one of Wisconsin’s own controversial abortion laws.

According to a statement from Schimel, the brief was filed to support certain abortion regulations Texas is currently defending. One of the abortion regulations is admitting privileges. Chelsea Shields, legislative director for Wisconsin Right to Life, said Wisconsin also had a similar law implementing admitting privileges.

Shields said admitting privileges would allow abortion providers to immediately admit their patients at nearby hospitals for treatment in case abortions at their practices led to complications. Wisconsin’s law, which was passed in 2013, ensured abortion providers obtained admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of where they performed abortions.


Mel Barnes, legal and policy associate at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, said the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals called the law “unconstitutional” and said it did not improve the health and safety of women who are seeking abortion care in Wisconsin. The court ruled 2-1 and said admitting privileges were a “nonexistent” health benefit for women.

Federal appeals court declares Wisconsin abortion law unconstitutional

Shields said before the 2013 law was implemented in Wisconsin, very few abortion providers were able to obtain admitting privileges due to insufficient peer reviews of their practices. This law, she said, was important as it maintained certain standards that safeguarded women against abortion complications.

“Wisconsin Right to Life feels that it’s very important that this law stands,” Shields said. “We are happy that Attorney General Schimel is challenging it and adding an amicus brief to the Texas law.”

Shields said many states, including Wisconsin, created this law in response to several cases in Pennsylvania involving a “gruesome abortionist” named Kermit Gosnell. Gosnell practices unethical means of carrying out abortions that led to severe complications for his patients, she said.

Shields said if restored, this law would ensure such cases never threaten women’s health and safety again.

“We want to stand by the health and safety of women when those abortion complications happen,” Shields said. “We want to make sure that she has access to complete care when she goes to a hospital.”

Barnes said Planned Parenthood has opposed this law and condemns Schimel’s support of the Texas case.

Abortion is a safe procedure with a low risk of complications if performed in a safe and legal manner, Barnes said. The law, she said, created issues for women seeking good abortion care by forcing abortion clinics without admitting privileges to close in Wisconsin.

“These abortion restrictions are being advanced by people who oppose access to abortion in any circumstances under the guise of protecting a woman’s health and safety,” Barnes said.

Barnes said admitting privileges have nothing to do with the abortion provider’s skill, expertise or experience in providing care, which makes it difficult for many to obtain admitting privileges. For instance, some religiously-affiliated medical institutions will not grant admitting privileges to any physician who performs abortion care anywhere.

Barnes said admitting privileges are also difficult to obtain because of arbitrary requirements certain hospitals have. Some hospitals require an abortion provider to admit a set minimum number of patients to the hospital in order to retain admitting privileges. This is a difficult quota to meet because abortion rarely requires hospitalization and can be successfully and safely completed in a licensed clinic or practice, she said.

Currently, there are only three clinics that provide abortions in Wisconsin, which are located in Milwaukee, Madison and Appleton. Abortion became a costly experience for women because they had to spend money driving there, missing work and arranging for child care among other things.

“The intent of this law, however, was to put an obstacle in the path of women seeking safe and legal abortion care in our state, and that’s why we’ve opposed it and continue to fight against it,” Barnes said.

Schimel said in the statement he intends to have Wisconsin’s law restored and will have the court review its decision to remove the law soon.

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