Groups that mounted a successful court challenge to a Wisconsin law restricting abortions now are asking the state to reimburse nearly $1.8 million in legal costs.
If a judge grants the request, it would put Wisconsin taxpayers on the hook for legal expenses incurred by plaintiffs to the lawsuit, which include Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union.
A court filing from last week in the case requests the sum for “attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses,” with the vast majority going toward legal fees.
A spokesman for the state Department of Justice said the agency would fight the request.
“DOJ has a duty to ensure that the state is not paying more than it should be for those fees,” Johnny Koremenos said.
Also Wednesday, the Walker administration announced findings of a statewide audit of family planning clinics, including several run by Planned Parenthood, seeking reimbursement for Medicaid payments that the state said were overbilled.
In 2013, Planned Parenthood and ACLU challenged a requirement in state law that said abortion doctors must have admitting privileges to hospitals within 30 miles of the clinics at which they work. The law was passed that same year by Republican legislators and signed by Gov. Scott Walker.
A judge barred enforcement of the admitting privilege requirement also immediately after it was enacted, saying evidence suggested “no medical purpose is served by this requirement.”
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar law in Texas. In the 5-3 majority opinion in that case, Justice Stephen Breyer cited similar laws in other states, including Wisconsin, saying they unconstitutionally infringed on a woman’s ability to get an abortion.
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The Wisconsin case was resolved shortly afterward when the nation’s high court declined to hear an appeal from Attorney General Brad Schimel to reconsider the Wisconsin law.
The amount spent on the case was dictated in part by the DOJ twice filing appeals in the case.
Koremenos said Schimel “stands by the litigation decisions he made.”
“As the state’s chief legal counsel, the Attorney General has a duty to defend and enforce the laws that are duly enacted by our elected legislature,” Koremenos said.
Those challenging the admitting privileges requirement called it a sham pretext to limit women’s access to abortions in Wisconsin. They said it would force the shutdown of a clinic in Milwaukee because its doctors could not get admitting privileges.
Proponents of the law said it would ensure a woman who suffers an abortion-related complication has an advocate who can explain what happened when she reaches a hospital.
The audit findings released by the Walker administration Wednesday came from the state Department of Health Services’ Office of the Inspector General.
In an audit of Medicaid payments to eight family planning clinics around the state, it found $63,813 in overpayments, or nearly 50 percent of total Medicaid payments to the accounts audited. Four of the audited clinics were Planned Parenthood locations in Appleton, Green Bay, Madison and Milwaukee.