Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday asking that certain provisions of Wisconsin’s abortion laws be found unconstitutional because they restrict certain medical professionals, without any rational reason, from providing services to patients.
Among the provisions that Planned Parenthood seeks to block are provisions that bar qualified nurses from providing abortion services, restricting those services to physicians only; one that requires a woman receiving a medication-induced abortion be given the drug by the same physician on both required clinic visits; and a provision requiring that the physician who prescribed the abortion drug to be physically present when a patient is handed her pills.
The lawsuit states that violation of any of the three provisions is a felony in Wisconsin.
“Given the limited number of physicians willing and able to provide abortion services in Wisconsin, the three access restrictions — individually and in combination — significantly constrain the availability of abortion services in the state,” the lawsuit states. As a result, it states, women seeking abortions outside the three cities in Wisconsin where clinics are located face onerous burdens, “which fall disproportionately on poor women in the state.”
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Madison by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, along with its medical director, Dr. Kathy King; Planned Parenthood’s leading clinician for abortion services, Natalee Hartwig; and two certified nurse practitioners, Sara Beringer and Katherine Melde.
Defendants in the case are numerous and include Attorney General Josh Kaul; Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne; Dawn Crim, secretary of the state Department of Safety and Professional Services; Kenneth Simons, state Medical Examining Board chairman; Timothy Westlake, state Medical Examining Board vice chairman; and several others, including Medical Examining Board members.
“Through the access restrictions, Wisconsin has arbitrarily limited the class of medical professionals authorized to provide abortion services and has placed additional unique and unjustifiable restrictions on women’s ability to obtain medication-induced abortions, which Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin offers to patients during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy,” the lawsuit states. “Each of the access restrictions substantially curtails the availability of abortion care within the state of Wisconsin without any legitimate, rational medical justification for doing so.”
The lawsuit seeks a declaration that the laws it is challenging are unconstitutional and seeks a ruling barring the state from enforcing them.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Tanya Atkinson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, said the laws at issue “interfere with a woman’s ability to make her own decisions and make it more difficult to access the care she needs.
“These restrictions are unconstitutional because they place unnecessary barriers in the way of women seeking health care,” she said. “They are not based in health or safety. They exist only to limit access to safe abortion care in Wisconsin, and that is why we are launching this legal challenge.”
State Department of Justice spokeswoman Gillian Drummond said the lawsuit is being evaluated.
“In general, the role of the attorney general is to defend state law,” she said. “The Department of Justice will evaluate this case and take appropriate action.”
Heather Weininger, executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life, called on the GOP-dominated Legislature to defend the laws.
“With a pro-abortion governor and attorney general in office, it certainly didn’t take long for Planned Parenthood to look at another avenue for increasing their revenues from abortions,” Weininger said in a statement, noting also that Kaul received support during his election campaign from Planned Parenthood.
“By challenging these common-sense laws that require doctors to perform abortions and limit access to deadly abortion drugs, Planned Parenthood is showing they have zero regard for women’s safety and want nothing more than to increase their profits by expanding abortion in our state,” Weininger said.