News Abortion

Wisconsin Democrats Push Back Against GOP’s Abortion ‘Junk Science’ [Audio]

Jenn Stanley

The Patients Reproductive Health Act would support Wisconsin women and physicians in accessing and providing a full spectrum of reproductive health services.

Wisconsin Democratic lawmakers, women’s health advocates, and health-care professionals on Thursday introduced a bill to protect access to reproductive health services in the face of a GOP-led onslaught against abortion access.

In a state where access to reproductive health care is quickly disappearing, the Patients Reproductive Health Act aims to give doctors the option of providing medically accurate information and necessary services to women without obstruction and discrimination.

State Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) and State Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) unveiled the unprecedented legislation at a press conference at the Wisconsin State Capitol.

The Patients Reproductive Health Act would support Wisconsin women and physicians in accessing and providing a full spectrum of reproductive health services. Though the bill has little hope of passing in the state’s current GOP-led legislature, it aims to bring awareness to the disappearing rights of women and physicians in the state.

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Rewire spoke to some of the authors of the act before Thursday’s press conference at the Wisconsin State Capitol.

Dr. Douglas Laube, former president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, talks about the bill's focus on the doctor-patient relationship. (Jenn Stanley/Rewire)

Dr. Douglas Laube, former president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, talks about the bill’s focus on the doctor-patient relationship. (Jenn Stanley/Rewire)

“In the last four years, we have seen Republicans introduce, pass, and sign into law several bills that interfere with the doctor-patient relationship,” Erpenbach said. “The goal of our legislation is to ensure that all patients in Wisconsin have access to comprehensive, evidence-based health care. It’s time for politicians to get out of the exam room.”

The bill would end the forced waiting periods and mandatory counseling laced with inaccurate information pushed by Republican legislators. It would also criminalize patient and doctor harassment, violence, and intimidation.

“When someone walks into their doctor’s office they should feel comfortable with their doctor and confident that the information they receive is based on medically accurate information—free from wacky junk science,” Taylor said. “Questions and answers with our doctors should be based in face, not the agenda of politicians.”

With the recent bombardment of anti-choice legislation, it is harder than ever for Wisconsin women to access reproductive health care. Even doctors who want to provide abortion often can’t due to these restrictions.

Planned Parenthood successfully blocked a law in 2013 that would have required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of their clinic. Gov. Scott Walker (R) in July signed an unconstitutional 20-week abortion ban into law, making Wisconsin the 15th state to pass such a ban.

SB 179 criminalizes performing or inducing an abortion at or beyond 20 weeks’ fertilization. The state mandates in-person counseling at least 24 hours before an abortion. Much of what is said to women in the counseling session is medically inaccurate, and the forced waiting period is a burden for women traveling long distances for their abortions.

Abortion services are only available in Madison and Milwaukee after the recent suspension of abortion services at Planned Parenthood’s Appleton North Health Center. There is now one abortion provider for everyone million Wisconsin women.

Wisconsin GOP lawmakers in 2012 required that students receive an abstinence-based, or abstinence-centered education free from any mention of abortion. Republicans also banned private insurance from covering abortion care in 2012.

The Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health helped draft the Patients Reproductive Health Act. Sara Finger, the group’s executive director, told Rewire that the situation in Wisconsin right now is dire.

“There is a complete disconnect right now between the state legislators that occupy our state capitol and the women across the state. They are living in a bubble right now,” Finger said. “They are passing policies that are completely in opposition to the values and needs of women in this state, and they are doing it in opposition and complete disrespect to the medical community.”

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