Monday, November 23, 2015

7th Circuit Court makes right decision on unconstitutional "admitting privileges" law

Law "would actually endanger women's health" according to court ruling

The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled on Monday that Wisconsin’s law requiring abortion clinics to have “admitting privileges” to area hospitals is unconstitutional.

The law, which was signed by Gov. Scott Walker in 2013, would have greatly limited the number of abortion providers in the state, including one in Milwaukee (PDF) that would had to have closed were it not for the 7th Circuit Court decision this week.

Admitting privileges, which (according to is “the right of a doctor, by virtue of membership as a hospital's medical staff, to admit patients to a particular hospital or medical center,” is the latest way for many conservative lawmakers to limit abortion services to women without outright banning the practice.

Texas also sought to institute such a law, only to have federal courts strike it down as well. But before the courts could intervene, the state law in Texas resulted in dozens of clinics being shut down, which may have resulted in hundreds of thousands of self-induced abortions according to the University of Texas. That’s a dangerous outcome of the law, and is one of the many reasons why it was struck down as a barrier to abortion services in that state as well as many others.

One additional reason? The “admitting privileges” rule is an undue burden that isn’t necessary. From Daily Kos (emphasis in bold added):
...when there’s an emergency, admitting privileges become irrelevant. Under a 1986 federal law known as EMTALA, hospitals are required to provide care to anyone who needs emergency care...


Think of it this way: If you’re walking down the street and have a heart attack, it doesn’t matter who your personal doctor is, or whether he/she has admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where you are: You can be taken to any hospital emergency room, get admitted, and receive treatment, even if your doctor isn’t there, and even if you don’t know a doctor within 30 miles of the hospital.
The 7th Circuit Court stated quite clearly in its ruling that there wasn’t any need for admitting privileges, and that the requirement didn’t do anything positive for women in the state. “There is not a rational basis for your statute because it doesn't provide any health benefits for women seeking abortion,” Judge Richard Posner, a Reagan appointee, said during oral arguments earlier this fall.

In the court's decision today, Posner wrote, “What makes no sense is to abridge the constitutional right to abortion on the basis of spurious contentions regarding women's health -- and the abridgement challenged in this case would actually endanger women's health.”

He’s absolutely right, and the court made the right call. Women have an inalienable right to make this decision for themselves. That decision shouldn’t be hindered by any state law that requires unnecessary and sometimes unattainable barriers for abortion providers.

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