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Witnesses testify in legal challenge to Wisconsin abortion law

MADISON, Wis (WSAU-Wheeler News)  The state Justice Department will start calling witnesses today in a federal court trial that challenges the state law to make abortion doctors have hospital admitting privileges. The trial opened yesterday in Madison without a jury.

Federal Judge William Conley heard the plaintiffs' arguments that the law is not necessary, and it would result in delays for abortions which could put women's health at risk. Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services filed suit over the law, saying an A-M-S clinic in Milwaukee would close. The state said Planned Parenthood could pick up the slack -- but that agency said its Milwaukee facilities are tight, and recruiting more abortion doctors would be difficult because they often face heavy harassment.

The state says the law is needed to make sure there's continuous care if abortion patients need hospitalization. But Judge Conley was told it was seldom the case. Wendie Ashlock of A-M-S said only three patients of almost 5,000 were transferred to a hospital from her facility the past two years. Planned Parenthood said only four patients among 8,400 were sent to Milwaukee hospitals from 2009-through-last year.