News Abortion

Wisconsin Looks to Block “Telemed” Abortions

Robin Marty

A new bill in the state would ban telemed abortions, despite the fact that they currently don't exist in Wisconsin.

The anti-choice politicians of Wisconsin has decided to take a proactive approach to restricting abortion, proposing to ban telemed abortions in the state, despite the fact that no physicians or clinics even provide them.

Via the Daily Cardinal:

Wisconsin Right to Life Legislative Director Sue Armacost said she recognized the bill would not stop RU-486 from being distributed, but would require the physician who is prescribing it to give the patient a physical exam in person.

But Lisa Subeck, executive director of National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League Pro-Choice Wisconsin said women receive the same medical care during a telemedicine chemical abortion as they would in any other situation.

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 “Wisconsin Right to Life would like to portray … some concept where you go into a video booth at a local shopping mall,” Subeck said. “We are talking about physicians providing medical care.”

Wisconsin Right to Life and Pro-Life Wisconsin have been especially active in the state since the election of Republican Governor Scott Walker and the takeover of the House and Senate by the Republican party in 2010.  Since then, the groups and legislature have worked together to dismantle many programs that provide access to birth control, STI treatments and comprehensive sex education throughout the state.

News Law and Policy

Wisconsin ACLU, Planned Parenthood Sue to Block Fast-Tracked TRAP Law

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Anti-abortion lawmakers in Wisconsin rush through an admitting privileges law and advocates immediate sue to block it.

UPDATE, July 8, 2:35 p.m.: The Associated Press reports that arguments are scheduled for July 17.

On Friday last week the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin (PPWI) filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging a new Wisconsin law that places medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers and threatens to close two of the states four clinics providing abortion care.

Just before the Fourth of July holiday Governor Scott Walker (R) requested the state legislature send him SB 206 a fast-tracked bill passed in less than one week in a process that has come to encapsulate anti-women lawmakers rush to pass as many restrictions with as little public input as possible. SB 206 requires all abortion providers to have staff admitting privileges at a local hospital. This requirement is opposed by doctors and leading medical groups, such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Wisconsin Public Health Association as an unnecessary hurdle for pregnant people needing to access abortion care.

PPWI is asking the federal district court  to immediately block the law because it violates the due process rights of both PPWI and its patients. Federal courts in Alabama and Mississippi recently blocked similar staff privilege requirements like Wisconsin’s after the courts found that they were likely unconstitutional and would prevent women from obtaining abortions. A similar requirement is part of the package of bills generating substantial opposition and attention in Texas.

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“This law will drastically limit a woman’s ability to obtain a safe and legal abortion in Wisconsin by imposing burdensome and medically unnecessary requirements on doctors that provide this essential care,” said ACLU of Wisconsin Legal Director Larry Dupuis in a statement. “This law was rammed through the legislature in a matter of days and now, with a stroke of his pen, the governor has put the very health and well-being of Wisconsin women and families at immediate risk.”

The law would force Affiliated Medical Services in Milwaukee and Planned Parenthood’s health center in Appleton to shut down, and would force Planned Parenthood’s health center in Milwaukee to cut staff and severely curtail services. “Requiring doctors who provide abortions to have staff privileges at a nearby hospital won’t make women safer and, in fact, could jeopardize their health by depriving women in Wisconsin access to safe, high-quality health care,” said Dr. Broekhuizen Medical Director for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. “Legal abortion is extremely safe. In fact, it is one of the safest medical procedures in the United States. Abortion complications are rare, but those that do occur are usually handled in the health center that provided the abortion. In the exceedingly rare event that a complication after an abortion requires hospital-based care, a woman would be provided emergency care at a hospital, and staff privileges at that hospital have no impact on a woman’s ability to receive high quality, timely care.”

Doctors who provide abortions are often unable to obtain hospital admitting privileges due to factors such as the hospital’s opposition to abortion or a requirement that physicians admit a minimum number of patients to the hospital. Because abortion is extremely safe and rarely results in hospitalization, it is impossible for physicians who provide abortions to meet the minimum requirement. Moreover, because of its immediate effective date, this law does not even allow doctors to try to obtain privileges before forcing them to stop providing abortions.

“We are confident that the Court will recognize that women in Wisconsin, including victims of rape and incest, will be restricted from accessing safe and legal abortion,” said Teri Huyck, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. “Senate Bill 206 is one part of the legislative majority’s goal to end abortion access in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, you do not need to overturn Roe vs. Wade to make abortion inaccessible. When abortion is inaccessible women’s health suffers and women die. It is critical that women still maintain access. This is why we are filing suit—for our patients, future patients and all of the women of Wisconsin. Women should be trusted and allowed to make their own health care decisions.”

If the law is not blocked, abortion would only be available to women in Madison and Milwaukee, forcing women in many parts of the state to travel, in many cases at least an extra 200 miles round-trip away from home to access abortion care, and since Wisconsin also has a 24-hr waiting period, that means it’s a trip many Wisconsin women would be forced to make twice.

A hearing on the request to block the law has not yet been scheduled.

News Abortion

Wisconsin Right to Life Claims Anti-Choice Legislation Supported by ‘Tons’ of Unnamed Doctors

Robin Marty

According to the anti-choice action group, "tons of doctors" approve of the new anti-choice bills mandating how physicians interact with patients. But national and state physicians' groups are not on board.

While the Wisconsin legislature has been fast-tracking multiple bills that would significantly alter the doctor-patient relationship and medical best practices—at least, when it comes to abortion—many lawmakers, activists, and media outlets have been asking “Where are the doctors?”

According to Wisconsin Right to Life, many doctors are on their side—they just aren’t being public about it. Susan Armacost, the legislative director of Wisconsin Right to Life, told the Capitol Times that when it came to SB 206, the forced ultrasound bill that was just approved by both arms of the state legislature, “many doctors advised us” on the bills, and “tons of doctors” disagree with the major Wisconsin medical groups, all of which have publicly condemned the bill.

Traditionally, physician groups, in Wisconsin and elsewhere, have avoided taking sides on abortion restrictions, despite the effect such bills often have on their members. But in the face of extreme anti-choice bills flooding state legislatures, that trend is changing. Most recently, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released a blistering condemnation of politicians legislating medical best practices during abortion, calling government mandated “counseling” and “informed consent” scripts, rules on what type of procedures, tests, and medications can be administered, and other anti-choice regulations an “assault” on practicing medicine.

“Given the relentless legislative assault on the patient-physician relationship that we’ve seen in the past few years—and unfortunately continue to see—we were compelled to issue a formal Statement of Policy,” said ACOG President Jeanne A. Conry in a statement earlier this month. “A disproportionate number of these types of laws are aimed at women’s reproductive rights and the physicians that provide women’s health care services. … We are speaking out not just on behalf of ob-gyns, but for all physicians and patients. Many of these laws are dangerous to patients’ health and safety. As physicians, we are obligated to offer the best evidence-based care to our patients. Government should stay out of imposing its political agenda on medical practice.”

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Condemning anti-choice bills may be new ground for the national organization, but some Wisconsin medical groups entered the fray a year earlier. Aware that the medication abortion rules that were being proposed in 2012 were likely to result in practitioners not being able to safely offer RU-486 without putting their careers in jeopardy, the Wisconsin Medical Society publicly opposed the bill, marking the first time the group had ever taking a stand on abortion legislation.

The Wisconsin Medical Society is just as open about opposing this year’s bills, especially SB 206, which not only would force every patient seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound, listen to a detailed description of the embryo or fetus, and hear a heartbeat, but would require doctors who perform abortions to obtain admitting privileges to a local hospital. Calling these “unacceptable” intrusions into the doctor-patient relationship, the group testified that “[p]hysicians should be deciding with their patients what tests and procedures are needed and will be performed based on the best available medical evidence, guidelines of care, and shared decision making between the patient and physician.”

“Whether you approve or disapprove of abortion, you should be appalled by this,” agreed Peggy Breister, editor of The Reporter. “Why? Because it puts government, not the patient, in the driver’s seat when it comes to making your personal, private health care decisions.”

It is exactly for those reasons that the Wisconsin arm of ACOG also publicly opposed the bill, despite acknowledging their members’ varied stances on performing abortions. As the group said prior to the vote:

The medical practices surrounding elective abortion, including the role of ultrasound when medically indicated, are the domain of the physician-patient relationship, in which the government has no valid role. To force a physician to recite a scripted oral description of the findings if the pregnant woman declines is abusive. The proposed requirements do not make abortion safer for women, but do create unnecessary bureaucratic barriers and add both emotional and financial stress to an already difficult decision.

The bill still needs to be signed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who has said he supports its passage.