Abortion rights are under attack in Wisconsin. A new bill introduced in the Wisconsin State Assembly, AB206, would prohibit doctors employed by the University of Wisconsin system from performing — and even learning how to perform — all abortion services.
The bill’s provisions are so sweeping that they threaten accreditation of the obstetrics and gynecology program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison — in a state that already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.
In Wisconsin, two trips to the clinic are necessary because of a mandatory 24-hour waiting period between in-person counseling designed to discourage abortion and the descriptive ultrasound that must be performed prior to an abortion.
Public funding for abortion is only available if the mother’s life is in danger or in cases of rape or incest. Minors seeking an abortion must have parental consent. And after 20 weeks of pregnancy, abortion is no longer an option.
Wisconsin currently has three abortion clinics in the entire state, all located in the southern, more urban part of the state: one Planned Parenthood facility in Madison and two clinics in Milwaukee, one run by Planned Parenthood and the other a private clinic that is under constant threat by anti-abortion forces.
After the recent closure of a clinic in Appleton, Wisconsin, residents seeking an abortion from the more rural northern part of the state have no choice but to travel burdensome distances for a service that should be considered basic health care.
Combined with other legal restrictions, Wisconsin women seeking an abortion must perfectly coordinate their jumps through multiple hoops as part of a time-consuming and expensive process.
Setting aside the outrageous restrictions already in place, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and the rest of his gang of anti-choice crusaders could possibly set us back to the time before Roe v. Wade with this one.
By eliminating University of Wisconsin doctors from the equation, Wisconsin stands to lose even more OB/GYNs — and there’s already a shortage.
One in three Wisconsin counties has no OB/GYN — not a single one. Even in Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s largest city, one doctor would like to retire, but he can’t because of the extreme shortage of OB/GYNs willing to provide abortions.
And if the OB/GYN program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison does lose its accreditation, potential OB/GYN doctors would have to go elsewhere to pursue their education.
It’s a classic lose-lose situation. People who need abortions will have no doctor to perform the service, and the university loses students who pay top dollar for their educations — not to mention the embarrassment of one of the world’s top research universities failing to maintain an accredited OB/GYN program.
While the Madison chapter of the National Organization for Women rallied reproductive rights supporters to attend a public hearing for the bill, other organizations, including NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin remained silent, apparently hoping to downplay the abortion aspect of the bill in favor of focusing on the threat to UW’s OB/GYN accreditation. A rally called to oppose the bill was retooled at the last minute into a day of action to “call your representatives.”
But this legislative threat to abortion rights in Wisconsin should serve as a call to action.
The right to an abortion has been gradually chipped away since Roe v. Wade guaranteed it in 1973. The mainstream liberal response to bills designed to gradually erode abortion access simply won’t cut it. We need repeated and sustained grassroots mobilizations to demonstrate our opposition to politicians who have built their careers on barring access to women’s fundamental right to control their own reproductive lives.
Women cannot achieve equality until they have the right to do with their bodies whatever they please, which includes ending unwanted pregnancies. Politicians will continue to deliver insults to our dignity and rights until we build a women’s liberation movement, like the kind that won the legal right to abortion in the 1960s and ’70s.