By Ruth Conniff
On Friday July 5, while Wisconsinites were distracted by the long holiday weekend, Governor Scott Walker held a private ceremony to sign into law an anti-abortion bill that contains the same highly restrictive, medically unnecessary provisions that provoked a filibuster and made national news in Texas.
Planned Parenthood and the ACLU immediately filed suit, calling the law unconstitutional and asking for a restraining order to block it.
"Wisconsin is right up there with the craziest of the crazies when it comes to restrictive policies. We're right up there now with Texas and Oklahoma," state representative Chris Taylor, Democrat of Madison, told The Capital Times.
"I don't think women can take much more," Taylor added.
The new law, which takes effect on Monday, could immediately cause the abortion clinics in Appleton and Milwaukee to close, according to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.
That's because abortion providers must now have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of their clinics -- an arbitrary and onerous requirement opposed by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. In Appleton, the local hospital is run by the Catholic Church, and is unlikely to offer staff privileges to the doctor who pays visits to Planned Parenthood to provide abortions on a part-time basis. Nor do the handful of doctors who still provide abortions in Wisconsin write enough hospital referrals to gain admitting privileges in most local hospitals. In part, that's because abortion is medically safe, and rarely results in complications that require hospitalization.
Planned Parenthood attorney Lester Pines points out that requiring hospital admitting privileges allows private institutions to decide whether abortion will be available in their local communities. (Half of all Wisconsin hospitals are run by the Catholic Church.)
"What the Legislature has done is to set up a system where the ability to provide abortions is contingent on the decision of a private institution and that's unconstitutional," Pines told the AP.
Another controversial component of the new law is the mandatory ultrasound for all women seeking abortions. Medical technicians must point out all of fetus's organs, external features, and make patients listen to any discernible heartbeat.
Opponents of the Wisconsin law include the Wisconsin Medical Society, the Wisconsin Hospital Association, the Wisconsin Public Health Association, the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians, the Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Boards, and the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health -- not to mention a majority of Wisconsin citizens.
Only about 36 percent of respondents in Wisconsin favored more restrictions on abortion in a recent Marquette Poll. That number is about the same in national polls.
Public opinion is not driving intrusive laws on women's health. The tea party wing of the Republican party, and governors like Scott Walker, who plans to run in the Republican Presidential primary in 20-16, is pushing them.
Behind closed doors.
While the public is gone fishing.
If you liked this article by Ruth Conniff, the political editor of The Progressive, check out her story "Pro-choice Women Should Take On Republican Govs."
Follow Ruth Conniff @rconniff on Twitter.