Wednesday, January 7, 2009


ABORTION NEWS | Antiabortion Groups Protest University of Wisconsin Plan To Provide Second-Trimester Abortions
[Jan. 7, 2009]

A pending University of Wisconsin plan to provide second-trimester abortions at its Madison Surgery Center is drawing criticism from antiabortion-rights groups, which are questioning the legality of the plan, the AP/Chicago Tribune reports. The Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based antiabortion-rights group, sent a letter to university officials urging them to stop the plan, saying that performing abortion procedures at the surgery center might violate a state law that prohibits federal or state funds from being used to pay physicians or clinics that perform abortions. In the letter, ADF lawyer Thomas Bowman wrote that "[m]any ... employees" believe that performing abortion procedures at the center would "severely upset regular patients, disrupt the respected surgical practice that currently occurs there, decimate employee morale, require burdensome policy changes and compel direct or indirect staff participation" in the procedures. A second antiabortion-rights group, Pro-life Wisconsin, issued a statement saying that its members would regularly protest outside the clinic if it opens, adding, "We strongly urge [the university] to abandon this morally reprehensible, potentially illegal plan."

Lisa Brunette, the university's health spokesperson, said that state physicians employed by the university would perform the procedures and that the procedures would be paid for by patients or insurance companies, not by public funding. Brunette also said that employees would be able to opt out of a procedure and that medical students would only be trained on the procedures if they elect to do so. Wisconsin state law prohibits employers from penalizing health care workers who refuse to "recommend, aid or perform" abortions because of moral objections. Brunette said the plan is awaiting final approval from the surgery center's board, which will meet later this month. The university's lawyers are confident that the plan is legal, she added.

The university released the plan after the retirement last month of the only second-trimester abortion provider in the area. Planned Parenthood took over the provider's clinic and offers abortions up to 18 weeks' gestation. Women who are more than 18 weeks pregnant are now referred to a Milwaukee clinic. The new surgery center would offer abortion services to patients between 13 and 22 weeks' gestation, according to the AP/Tribune. Brunette said that physicians at the surgery center "believe that there is a public health responsibility to provide [second-trimester abortions] as part of comprehensive reproductive health care," adding that physicians also feel that the surgery center is the most appropriate facility to perform the procedures. There were more than 8,200 abortions performed in Wisconsin in 2007, the lowest number since 1974. More than 80% of the procedures were performed in the first trimester, the AP/Tribune reports (Foley, AP/Chicago Tribune, 1/6).

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