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Abortion Rules Set For Trial in Wisconsin, Alabama

Both states have adopted laws that prohibit doctors from performing abortions unless the provider has admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

Abortion rules move into federal court Monday in Alabama – and then next week, in Wisconsin. Both states have adopted laws that prohibit doctors from performing abortions unless the provider has admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Many do not.

Emotions ran high, when Wisconsin legislators debated new abortion rules.

Republican Sen. Mary Lazich proposed them, insisting they would protect the well-being of women. In addition to requiring providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, her bill requires women seeking an abortion to get an ultrasound.

“These places that tell you it’s just a blob of tissue, get it done quick, you’re doing the right thing, you don’t have a job, you don’t have a father, you’re too young, you’re this, you’re that. That’s…words I shouldn’t say on the senate floor, but that’s baloney, and we’re not doing that anymore to women in this state,” Lazich says.

Democratic Sen. Kathleen Vinehout implored colleagues to reject the bill.

“I too, believe abortion should be rare, but I strongly believe it must be legal and it must be safe, and this bill works very hard to close clinics in Wisconsin, and then where will women go?” Vinehout asks.

Both the state Senate and Assembly passed the bill last summer, along party lines. Gov. Walker signed the measure into law and moments later, two clinics that perform abortions sued. Federal courts issued an injunction, temporarily blocking the law, while they determine if it’s constitutional. The trial begins next Tuesday, in Madison.

Larry Dupuis is an attorney with the ACLU of Wisconsin and, is representing one clinic challenging the law - Affiliated Medical Services of Milwaukee. Dupuis says abortion opponents have lobbied legislatures across the country to develop what he refers to as TRAP laws.

“They’re Targeted Restriction of Abortion Providers. They look like sort of neutral, medical regulations but, they’re only applied to abortion providers and not to any other providers of comparable kinds of medical services and they are designed and have the affect of essentially putting abortion providers out of business,” Dupuis says.

A handful of states have passed similar legislation, including Alabama. Its federal court case begins today. When Wisconsin’s starts next week, Dupuis says, he’ll argue that the rules violate constitutional guarantees of equal protection.

On the other side, the Wisconsin Department of Justice will fight to uphold the regulations.  Republican state Sen. Glenn Grothman is among those insisting the rules are reasonable.

“It’s amazing there’s an injunction. You talk to any American business and they are so over regulated. And, you have a small, common sense regulation on an abortion clinic and then all of a sudden, the judges step in and say, we can’t regulate these guys,” Grothman says.

In addition to the federal court cases poised to begin in Wisconsin and Alabama, several other states are involved in lawsuits over abortion rules. They include Mississippi, Texas and Arizona. So it appears the overall issue of whether government can regulate abortions, will eventually head to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.