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Wisconsin Planned Parenthood Sues To Restore Women’s Access To First-Trimester Abortions

By Tara Culp-Ressler  

"Wisconsin Planned Parenthood Sues To Restore Women’s Access To First-Trimester Abortions"

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Just like Texas lawmakers’ decision to restrict access to contraceptive services will lead to higher rates of unintended pregnancy in the state, Wisconsin’s new restrictions on first-trimester abortion services are already forcing women to put off the medical procedure, leading to an uptick in later term abortions.

Even though Wisconsin already requires written consent before doctors may perform an abortion, anti-choice lawmakers pushed through a new measure that imposes additional hurdles for women who seek medicine-induced abortions during their first nine weeks of pregnancy. Planned Parenthood’s Wisconsin affiliate is suing to restore women’s full access to reproductive services, arguing that the restrictive state law is ultimately resulting in increased later term abortions because it makes it more difficult for doctors to administer the abortion pill:

The suit alleges the law does not clearly spell out what a physician must do to satisfy all of the requirements of the law. [...] Planned Parenthood, which performed roughly two-thirds of the 7,019 abortions in Wisconsin last year, stopped offering medication abortions in April when the law took effect. Officials said they could not provide the best care for their patients while protecting their doctors from criminal liability. The nonprofit continues to offer surgical abortions at its clinics in Madison, Milwaukee and Appleton.

In an interview Tuesday, Dr. Douglas Laube of Madison said the reduction in pill abortions has forced some women to terminate their pregnancies later since surgical abortions can’t be performed in the first weeks of pregnancy. Surgery also can be more dangerous for patients with certain physical conditions, he said.

“It is legislated medicine rather than evidence-based practices,” said Laube, past president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Under Wisconsin’s law, women must visit the same doctor three separate times before they can take the RU-486 abortion pill — including once for a “counseling session” so their doctor can determine they’re not being “coerced” into the procedure. And since the doctors who don’t follow the new requirements can be subject to criminal charges, other women’s health clinics in the state have also followed Planned Parenthood’s lead and stopped offering medical abortions because they believe it is too legally risky.

Despite the fact that medicine-induced abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy are noninvasive, safe, and effective, right-wing lawmakers often push to restrict women’s access to the abortion pill. In rural areas where women may not have access to nearby abortion doctors, telemedical abortions — allowing doctors to prescribe and administer the RU-486 pill over a video conference — can help decrease the number of second trimester abortions by allowing women to access abortion services sooner, but anti-choice lawmakers have still insisted on working to outlaw the practice.

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