Women can no longer get non-surgical abortions in Wisconsin

Medication abortions are no longer available in Wisconsin.
Medication abortions are no longer available in Wisconsin.

Yesterday, Gov. Mark Dayton announced his veto of a bill that would've banned so-called "telemedicine abortions" and required the physical presence of a doctor when an abortion is performed.

What a difference a few hundred votes can make! In our neighbor to the east, a similar bill signed by Gov. Scott Walker has prompted Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin to scale back the services it offers.

On April 20, Wisconsin Planned Parenthood announced it will no longer offer medication abortions at any of its three clinics in the state, meaning women seeking abortions in Wisconsin will either have to submit to a surgical procedure or travel elsewhere.

Planned Parenthood's announcement came in response to the passage of Act 217, a bill mandating that women having non-surgical abortions submit to an in-person physical exam before the procedure, then return to the same physician for a post-abortion follow-up about two weeks later. Violation of the Act is a felony offense, though it's unclear whether doctors could be held criminally culpable if patients don't return for the mandated follow-up.

Wisconsin Planned Parenthood President and CEO Teri Huyck cited "confusion over the law" as the main reason for discontinuing medication abortions. Planned Parenthood's decision certainly didn't stem from women's health considerations -- RU-486, the medication causing the pregnancy to separate from the uterus, is associated with fewer patient deaths than Tylenol or Viagra.

There were over 1,100 medication abortions performed in Wisconsin last year, about half as many as in Minnesota in 2010. At Planned Parenthood clinics throughout the country, medication abortions account for nearly one-third of first-trimester abortions.

In an analysis piece published by the World Socialist Web Site yesterday, Act 217 was blasted as "a state-sponsored intimidation and entrapment scheme for health professionals attempting to provide needed and federally legal medical care and abortions to women."

Gary Joad writes:

Wisconsin Democrats have sought to portray Act 217 as part of Republicans' "war on women."
Wisconsin Democrats have sought to portray Act 217 as part of Republicans' "war on women."

The signing of consent forms by patients are always voluntary (bound up in the definition of consent), including when persons are under the duress and stress of a health problem or dilemma, such as unwanted and unplanned pregnancies. Act 217 implies that the doctors and Planned Parenthood staff require state policing of their practices, lest they subject women to unwanted treatment and procedures.

Moreover, the statutory provisions that the same professional attend the patient on three successive clinic visits overtly target physicians staffing the Planned Parenthood clinics, who are more likely to rotate their coverage to accommodate their multiple duties at different practice locales, including private clinics and hospitals. The law also denies women who travel from remote areas of Wisconsin the vastly more convenient and less financially costly option of follow-up visits with their hometown clinicians.

While it's a scary time to be a woman in Wisconsin, Minnesotans were one signature away from living amid a similar state of affairs. Thankfully for those who support a woman's right to be free from invasive medical procedures, Governor Dayton is willing to use his veto pen to make sure Minnesota's laws don't restrict the constitutional rights of women.

Related coverage:
-- Dayton vetoes two abortion-restricting bills
-- Abortion crackdowns advancing through Minnesota legislature
-- MN Senate committee passes two anti-abortion bills

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