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updated: 5/28/2014 11:24 AM

Woman who had abortion testifies at trial

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Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. -- A Wisconsin woman who said she became extremely ill after having an abortion testified Wednesday in a federal court trial over a state law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Lena Wood testified for state attorneys who are defending the law, which was passed by the Republican Legislature and signed by Gov. Scott Walker last year.

Wisconsin is one of a handful of states that recently passed laws requiring doctors to have hospital admitting privileges. Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas have similar laws. Abortion clinics in Alabama have mounted a similar lawsuit challenging that state's statutes.

Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services filed their lawsuit July 5, the day Walker signed the bill, arguing the mandate would force a Planned Parenthood clinic in Appleton and an AMS clinic in Milwaukee to close because providers there lack admitting privileges.

U.S. District Judge William Conley has blocked the law from taking effect while he weighs the lawsuit. Conley began a bench trial Tuesday that's expected to last until at least Friday, but is not expected to issue a ruling for weeks.

Wood testified that she grew extremely ill after she had an abortion in 1995 and was hospitalized for 12 days. She said the doctor who performed her abortion never contacted her, making her feel abandoned.

Planned Parenthood attorney Lester Pines argued that Wood had a urinary tract infection and doesn't know for sure whether the abortion caused her illness.

The organizations challenging the law initially argued that the law would force the two clinics to close, placing an undue burden on women seeking abortions. AMS is the only facility in Wisconsin that provides abortions after 19 weeks of pregnancy; if it were to close, women who want abortions at or beyond that point would have to go out of state.

Doctors who work in the Appleton clinic have gotten their privileges since the lawsuit was filed. But AMS's doctors still do not have them.

Planned Parenthood and AMS officials testified Tuesday that it takes months for physicians to acquire admitting privileges and they're not necessary in abortion procedures. They said few women suffer complications severe enough to require hospitalization, and emergency room staffers are trained to handle such cases when they arise. They also said providers have protocols for dealing with complications and follow up on hospitalized patients by telephone.

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