Date Set in Trial Over Wisconsin Admitting Privileges Law


A trial over the constitutionality of a Wisconsin anti-choice law that requires doctors who perform abortions in the state to obtain admitting privileges at area hospitals is scheduled to begin in late May.

The law has been on hold since July when a lower court temporarily blocked it, ruling that the law’s requirement that abortion providers have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of where they perform abortions is likely unconstitutional. The lower court later issued a longer preliminary injunction. Attorneys for the State of Wisconsin appealed that ruling, and in late December a federal appeals court affirmed the injunction and permanently blocked the law from going into effect while the trial on its merits continued.

The legal challenge in Wisconsin mirrors a similar battle in Texas. Earlier this month, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in an appeal over a similar provision in HB 2, the massive omnibus anti-abortion bill passed last summer. In November, the U.S. Supreme Court refused an emergency request to intervene in that legal battle, allowing Texas’ admitting privileges law to take effect despite a lower court ruling the law was unconstitutional.

The emerging split in the circuits on the issue suggests these cases could find their way to the Roberts Court, perhaps as soon as next term. Federal courts in Alabama and Mississippi have also blocked similar laws in those states, while state courts in Kansas and North Dakota have blocked admitting privileges laws there as well.

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