NRL News

Trial ends in lawsuit brought against Wisconsin law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges in local hospital

by | May 30, 2014


By Dave Andrusko

North Carolina obstetrician Dr. James Thorp

North Carolina obstetrician Dr. James Thorp

U.S. District Judge William Conley seemed to be sending mixed signals the last two days of a lawsuit brought by abortion clinics seeking to overturn Wisconsin’s law that requires abortionists to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic.

The lawsuit against the 2013 law was brought by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and Affiliated Medical Services (AMS), the same day Gov. Scott Walker signed the bill into law. After Judge Conley issued his July 2013 preliminary injunction blocking the law from taking effect, the Wisconsin Department of Justice asked the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to lift the injunction. In December, a three-judge panel refused.

Much of the testimony during the week-long trial has been about (or circled around) the plaintiffs’ insistence that they had tried but were unable to secure admitting privileges. (Planned Parenthood was still challenging the law, even though it has obtained admitting privileges for its Appleton clinic.)

Thursday’s comments from the bench appeared favorable to the state, but remarks Conley made Friday were decidedly not.

For example, on Thursday Conley said he was “bewildered” that AMS abortionist Dennis Christensen had not received a definitive response from any Milwaukee hospital.

“He told them to demand better answers from two facilities where Christensen is seeking admitting privileges,” the AP’s Todd Richmond reported. Said Conley, “I’m being asked to strike down a law,” adding, “I take no pleasure in that. If there’s a way to get privileges short of that, you should do that.”

Conley said that even though AMS attorneys had months to prepare for the trial, they had not definitively resolved the question, leaving the judge “frustrated.”

According to Richmond’s account, Christensen testified that he had tried—for months. Christensen’s explanation went this way. He’d been asked by hospital credentialing officials for information about patients he’d treated in a hospital. But because, he hadn’t treated an aborted woman in a hospital setting for a decade, Christensen testified, he had none.

“The fact that we’ve managed to keep our patients out of the hospital appears to be a detriment to getting hospital privileges,” Christensen alleged.

But according to Richmond, Conley

“warned AMS’s attorneys that if they stopped pursuing answers in a bid to ensure Christensen doesn’t get privileges so the lawsuit can continue it was a ‘horrendous idea.’ He said if they can’t get definitive responses he can order the hospitals to answer.”

As NRL News Today previously reported, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals (the panel that refused to lift the injunction) advised Conley to call his own expert to testify, on the theory that the witnesses for both sides might be biased. Conley took them up on their suggestion.

Richmond reported that Conley’s witness and the witness for the plaintiffs

“both said transfer agreements between clinics and hospitals ensure better care for abortion patients than do admitting privileges. Transfer agreements call for abortion clinics to send patients with complications to specific hospitals.”

North Carolina obstetrician Dr. James Thorp, testifying for the state,

“countered that transfer agreements amount to sending the patient off to a ‘black box’ and don’t help if a woman develops complications after leaving the abortion clinic.

“A provider with admitting privileges is more apt to contact emergency room physicians about an incoming patient out of fear his or her privileges could be revoked, Thorp added.

“’I reject the final premise,’ Thorp said, ‘that a law like this will harm Wisconsin women.’”

But on Friday, without directly quoting Conley, the AP’s Richmond said Conley “expressed concerns that a Wisconsin law requiring abortion providers to get hospital admitting privileges is inflexible.” Richmond reported that a former researcher for the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute testified that if AMS closes, women who want abortions beyond 19 weeks would have to travel to Chicago.

Conley is not expected to rule for several weeks. In the meanwhile the law is enjoined.

Categories: Abortion Abortionist