Commentary Law and Policy

In Wisconsin, Radical Rules and Regulations Promise to Harm Women and Families

Fredrik Broekhuizen MD

Governor Scott Walker, along with Wisconsin’s anti-abortion, anti-choice and anti-birth control action groups, are jeopardizing physicians’ ability provide necessary medical care to patients with complicated pregnancies.

I am an Obstetrician who, with every pregnancy, assumes the care of both the pregnant woman and her unborn baby. 

Over 35 years in my practice, I have helped women in many different situations.  I have helped women who have had to take risks to ensure the survival of their baby.  I have also cared for women who, sadly, did not have that same choice, as survival was not possible.  Often, I have had to help mothers who had to make very difficult decisions concerning their own health, the pregnancy, and the health of their baby. 

One time, I took care of a woman who developed a complication of pulmonary hypertension during her first pregnancy.  Had she continued with the pregnancy, she would have accepted a risk of death nearing 30 percent.  After much discussion with the patient, she made the choice that I should deliver her baby at six weeks premature, thus significantly reducing her risk.

I had another patient with pulmonary hypertension who carried the same such risk.  She almost died during a previous pregnancy due to complications of her medical issues.  She knew the risk of another pregnancy and had, appropriately, been on birth control.  Unfortunately, her birth control failed.  She expressed that she did not want her firstborn child to grow up without a mother.  The patient chose to terminate the pregnancy at eight weeks.  Yes, I provided an abortion for her.

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I delivered a baby at 34 weeks whose mother had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma when she was 24 weeks pregnant.  She made the difficult decision to receive modified chemotherapy during those ten weeks, thus delaying the best treatment for her cancer, in order to avoid a premature delivery and give her baby a better chance of survival.

I treated another woman with Hodgkin’s lymphoma who experienced a recurrence of her cancer during pregnancy.  For her own survival, she was unable to take the risk of delaying her chemotherapy and radiation treatment.  She made the decision to terminate her pregnancy at 14 weeks.  Yes, I provided an abortion for her.

These are just a few examples of the women I have treated in my 35 years of practice in Wisconsin.  These patients, and those like them, need to be able to access abortion care in safe, supportive settings.  These patients need insurance coverage for their medically-indicated pregnancy terminations.  These patients need physicians who are trained in abortion care.

Governor Scott Walker, along with Wisconsin’s anti-abortion, anti-choice and anti-birth control action groups, are jeopardizing physicians’ ability provide necessary medical care to patients with complicated pregnancies by further restricting access to abortion within the state of Wisconsin.  

They want it to be illegal for physicians to learn how to provide abortion care, skills that are necessary for the care of women.  Skills that save women’s lives.

They are trying to make it impossible for private insurance companies to cover abortion care, even when due to heartbreaking pregnancy complications. 

They are blocking access to affordable contraceptive services to uninsured and underinsured patients at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.  To say that taxpayer funds are at issue is a lie.  State and federal law have long required that women pay for elective abortion care on their own. 

Governor Walker has made no secret of his goal to make all abortions illegal in Wisconsin.  In all circumstances.  Period.  He and politicians like him frame their radical policies in black and white terms. 

But patients and doctors are faced with difficult and complicated decisions every day that are not simply black or white.  At least four times a week in Wisconsin, a pediatrician or obstetrician is confronted with the responsibility to tell a pregnant woman and her partner that their baby cannot survive.  These patients probably never contemplated an abortion prior to this devastating news. 

My hope is that independent minds will prevail in Wisconsin.  If they do, we will not allow more radical rules and regulations that harm pregnant women to govern abortion care and insurance coverage.  We will not stand for more intolerant ideological actions without any scientific or economic rationale. 

If independent minds indeed prevail in Wisconsin, we will leave the practice of medicine up to doctors and we will trust women to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.

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Reproductive rights are a public health issue. That's a fact.

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