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Wisconsin governor signs into law new abortion restrictions

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks after witnessing a signing memorandum of understanding of the commercial deals between U.S. and China
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks after witnessing a signing memorandum of understanding of the commercial deals between U.S. and China

By Brendan O'Brien

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed into law on Friday new abortion restrictions that opponents said could lead to the closing of two of the state's four abortion clinics.

Opponents of the law, which goes into effect Monday, July 8, filed a federal lawsuit challenging it.

The law requires women to undergo an ultrasound before they get an abortion and doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinics.

"This bill improves a woman's ability to make an informed choice that will protect her physical and mental health now and in the future," said Tom Evenson, a spokesman for the governor.

According to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and Affiliated Medical Services, which are the state's two abortion providers, the law could prompt the closing of abortion clinics in Appleton and Milwaukee because doctors there do not have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

The two providers filed a lawsuit in Madison federal court on Friday arguing that the law fails to protect the due process and equal protection rights that women who are seeking an abortion have under the Constitution.

Admitting privileges "won't make women safer and, in fact, could jeopardize their health by depriving women in Wisconsin access to safe, high-quality healthcare," said obstetrician-gynecologist Anne Davis in a statement released by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.

The law requires an ultrasound be performed on a pregnant woman at least 24 hours before an abortion, a requirement that can be waived if the pregnancy is the result of sexual assault or incest.

Results of the ultrasound including images, a description of the fetus and a visualization of the fetal heartbeat must be offered to the woman. The woman can decline the results.

Anti-abortion activists have turned to enacting new restrictions on abortion at the state level after the Supreme Court's 1973 decision legalizing the procedure nationally in Roe v. Wade.

Wisconsin is the third state this week to move toward more restrictions on abortion after a Texas House committee and the North Carolina Senate both approved measures.

On Monday, the battle in Texas over proposed restrictions on abortion resumes with a public hearing in the Senate, where Democrat Wendy Davis staged a filibuster last month to stall the Republican-backed measure.

Wisconsin is one of eight states requiring a doctor to have admitting privileges, but measures in Mississippi and Alabama are blocked in court, according to data published July 1 by the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization that supports abortion rights.

Legal challenges are also blocking ultrasound abortion laws in Oklahoma and North Carolina, two of the 12 states with that type of measure in place, the Guttmacher Institute said.

(Reporting By Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Greg McCune, Gary Hill and Philip Barbara)

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