By Stephen C. Webster on December 20, 2013

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday (PDF) in favor of women's rights advocates in Wisconsin, who sued over a Republican-sponsored law that would force abortion doctors to hold hospital admitting privileges, making abortions nearly impossible to obtain in the state for a period of weeks or months.

The law has been on hold following a lower court's injunction, which proponents of the law appealed to the Seventh Circuit. Writing for the majority, Judge Richard Posner called the Republican medical arguments in favor of hospital admitting privileges "feeble," noting that without more compelling grounds the law would cause an "undue burden" on women seeking an abortion and doctors who provide them.

Because the vast majority of surgical abortions are performed without adverse incident in clinics, the American Medical Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Wisconsin Public Health Association have all voiced opposition to the law.

"In this case the medical grounds thus far presented... are feeble, yet the burden great because of the state's refusal to have permitted abortion providers a reasonable time within which to comply," Posner wrote.

In a concurring opinion, Judge Daniel Manion lashed out at the notion that requiring hospital admitting privileges would prevent Wisconsin women from accessing abortion, and even suggested that it would not pose an undue burden to force Wisconsin women to travel out of state to obtain an abortion.

Manion also made note that Wisconsin's 24-hour waiting law would require some women to travel great distances up to four times to get an abortion, saying that while the law is "undoubtedly inconvenient," not even that rises to the level of an "undue burden."

Despite making a rather clear argument in favor of the abortion restrictions, Manion quoted a strongly pro-choice article by "Daily Show" co-creator Lizz Winstead and ultimately sided with Posner on upholding the injunction. "Wisconsin's failure to include a reasonable time for compliance merited a preliminary injunction," he wrote. "Therefore, I concur in part and concur in the judgment."

"We're glad that the court has prevented this law from taking effect," Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, said in an advisory. "These kinds of decisions should only be made by a woman, her family and her doctor. Politicians should have no place in the complicated and personal decision about whether or not to end a pregnancy."

A similar law in Texas was recently upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, after a lower court found that it imposed an undue burden on women seeking an abortion.

"Today's ruling marks a major victory for Wisconsin women and sends a message to lawmakers across the country: it is unconstitutional for politicians to pass laws under a false guise of women's safety in order to interfere in a woman's personal medical decisions," Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards said in prepared remarks. "Far from protecting women's health, the effect of this law if it took effect would be to force an abortion later in pregnancy or cut off access to safe and legal abortion."

Photo: Shutterstock.com.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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