(Adds comments and background)
By Brendan O'Brien
MILWAUKEE, July 8 A federal judge on Monday
temporarily blocked a portion of a newly enacted law in
Wisconsin that opponents say would effectively shut down two of
the four abortion clinics in the state if enforced.
The measure, signed into law on Friday by Republican
Governor Scott Walker, requires women to undergo an ultrasound
before they get an abortion and doctors who perform the
procedure to have admitting privileges at a hospital located
within 30 miles (48 km) of their practice.
U.S. District Judge William Conley ordered that the
admitting-privileges requirement be suspended for 10 days, until
another hearing on the matter can be held.
Conley wrote in his decision that if the law were enforced,
there would "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
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and Affiliated Medical
Services, the state's two abortion providers, challenged the
restrictions in a lawsuit filed on Friday.
They argued that the measure, passed last week by
Wisconsin's Republican-led Assembly, would force the closure of
abortion clinics in Appleton and Milwaukee because doctors at
those two facilities do not have admitting privileges at a
Two other clinics, one elsewhere in Milwaukee and one in
Madison, would not be affected.
"We are not surprised, but we are absolutely confident that
this law will be upheld," Susan Armacost, legislative director
of Wisconsin Right to Life, said of the judge's ruling.
Conley did not block the portion of the law requiring an
ultrasound to be performed on a pregnant woman at least 24 hours
before an abortion, a requirement that can be waived if the
pregnancy is the result of sexual assault or incest.
Under the law, results of the ultrasound, including images,
a description of the fetus and a visualization of the fetal
heartbeat, must be offered to the patient, but she can decline
to see them.
Anti-abortion activists, frustrated at having failed in
efforts to roll back the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court
decision that established a woman's constitutional right to
terminate her pregnancy, have recently turned to enacting new
abortion limits at the state level.
During the past couple of weeks, a Texas House committee and
the North Carolina Senate both approved new abortion
restrictions. Texas Democrat Wendy Davis made headlines last
month by stalling a Republican-backed measure with a filibuster.
The latest Wisconsin legal skirmish follows similar lawsuits
in Mississippi and Alabama, where courts have likewise blocked
statutes requiring admitting privileges for physicians to
perform abortions, according to data published July 1 by the
Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization that supports
Five other states have admitting-privilege laws on the
books, according to the data.
(Reporting By Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Steve Gorman and