MADISON, Wisc. — A federal judge appointed to the bench by Barack Obama has struck down a Wisconsin abortion law as unconstitutional, stating that the law places a “burden” on women seeking to end the life of their unborn child.
As previously reported, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker approved Senate Bill 206 (SB206) in July 2013, which called for increased health standards at abortion facilities, including the requirement that abortionists obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. The measure was stated to protect women in the event of injury during the abortion procedure.
Pro-life advocates praised the legislation, but Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) immediately filed a lawsuit against the state, asserting that the regulation will cause at least Affiliated Medical Services to close its doors since local hospitals have been unwilling to grant its abortionist, Dennis Christensen, admitting privileges.
During the trial for the matter, U.S. District Judge William Conley began to spar with Dr. John Thorp, an obstetrician at the University of North Carolina who had been asked by the state to testify in defense of the requirement.
Thorp told the court that he believes that complications from abortions are under-reported, and that he does not find any U.S. studies on maternal deaths from abortion procedures to be completely reliable. Conley then referenced a quote from the late author Mark Twain, stating that there are “lies, [expletive] lies and statistics.”
Thorp replied by stating that he felt chilled by Conley’s comment, which he took as suggesting that Thorp was lying to the court. Conley then backtracked, saying that he did not intend to call Thorp a liar.
However, Conley issued an injunction against the law, and his decision was appealed by the state to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. Several months later, Justices Richard Posner and Daniel Manion, appointed by Ronald Reagan, and Justice David Hamilton, appointed by Barack Obama unanimously upheld the injunction, and the case headed back to Conley to rule on the merits of the law.
On Friday, Conley issued his final opinion, declaring that that a woman’s desire to obtain an abortion “is substantially outweighed by the burden this requirement will have on women’s health outcomes due to restricted access to abortions in Wisconsin.”
“While the court agrees with the State that sometimes it is necessary to reduce access to ensure safety, this is decidedly not one of those instances,” he wrote. “In particular, the state has failed to meet its burden of demonstrating through credible evidence a link between the admitting privileges requirement and a legitimate health interest.”
“The only reasonable conclusion is that the legislation was motivated by an improper purpose, namely to restrict the availability of abortion services in Wisconsin,” Conley said.
A representative for Gov. Walker told the Wisconsin Sentinel Journal that the state will appeal Conley’s decision.
“Our office will work with the attorney general to appeal this ruling, and we believe the law will ultimately be upheld,” aide Laurel Patrick stated.
There are four abortion facilities in Wisconsin.