Starting next Thursday, Wisconsin’s Green Bay region will no longer have an abortion provider. That’s because Ob/Gyn Associates, the sole abortion clinic in the area, was recently sold to a health system which announced on Friday that it will stop offering abortion services on August 1st. And their decision, combined with an anti-abortion bill quietly signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker (R) earlier in July, will force Green Bay women who want or need an abortion to travel over 250 miles round trip to find the closest facility.
Wisconsin’s recent anti-abortion law imposes burdensome regulations on abortion clinics. It requires facilities that perform the procedure to have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of where they are located. National obstetrician and gynecologist groups have dismissed the rules as unnecessary, noting that no other common outpatient procedures have to hew to that standard.
Practically speaking, the law would force two of the state’s five clinics — a private clinic in Milwaukee and a Planned Parenthood facility in Appleton — to close down entirely. Those facilities are temporarily staying open thanks to an injunction issued by a federal judge as Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit against the admitting requirements makes its way through the courts.
If those abortion clinics do eventually shut down, Wisconsin women will have little recourse for the family planning and women’s health services that they need. For instance, the Appleton clinic is only 30 miles away from Green Bay and would be a viable and conveniently-located option for those who can no longer rely on Ob/Gyn Associates’ services. But if the facility shutters, the closest available option would be over 120 miles away in Milwaukee — and the clinic there doesn’t even operate on a full-time schedule. The only other abortion clinic in the state is located in Madison.
Several other states have passed laws similar to Wisconsin’s, but are being challenged or blocked in court. Texas recently adopted an anti-abortion bill that will likely force 90 percent of its clinics to shut down. The multitude of anti-abortion laws passed in the last several years are expected to ultimately be resolved by the Supreme Court.