A new piece of legislation would require physicians to ensure that a woman seeking an abortion gives full consent before receiving one.
Under current state law, a woman who requests an abortion must give voluntary and informed written consent to the abortion. The bill, coauthored by Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, and Rep. Michelle Litjens, R-Oshkosh, requires a physician to determine whether the woman’s consent is voluntary.
“I offered the bill … to combat forced abortions and the unnecessary trauma of coerced abortions,” Lazich said at a hearing of the bill before the Senate Health Committee Tuesday.
The bill would require a physician to inform the woman within 24 hours of her abortion that she has a right to refuse or consent to an abortion, that her consent is not voluntary if she is being coerced to have an abortion against her will and that it is unlawful for the physician to perform or induce the abortion without her consent.
The bill also prohibits a person from giving a woman an abortion-inducing drug unless the physician who provides the drug performs a physical examination and remains in the room as the woman receives the drug.
If a woman is taking an abortion-inducing drug, the doctor must inform the woman that she must return to the clinic in 12-to-18 days after the pill takes effect to confirm the abortion occurred.
Barbara Lyons, executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life, said the issue of women being coerced into getting abortions has recently become a major issue.
Lyons said a recent example included when a pregnant woman who already had a child called Wisconsin Right to Life to report that her father was threatening to cut off her rent unless she got an abortion.
“A young girl is forced by primarily her boyfriend or parents who say ‘You do this or else we throw you out of the house’ or ‘I’ll leave you’ or ‘I’ll beat you up’ if you do not get an abortion,” Lyons said. “That’s just plain coercion.”
Approximately 25 abortions in Wisconsin a year come from abortion-inducing drugs such as RU-486, Lyons said. RU-486 is a pill given to a five- to nine-week pregnant woman with the intention of causing an abortion.
Lyons said it is important to pass the bill because it is a crime to try to coerce a woman into having an abortion. She said the bill gives people the information they need to know – mainly that this type of coercion is against the law – and that current law does not place enough emphasis on determining if the abortion is consensual.
The Women’s League of Voters, in a statement submitted for testimony on the bill Tuesday, said this part of the bill will hurt the economically disadvantaged.
“This bill will disproportionately affect working class and rural women by requiring them to visit a clinic or see a doctor in person three times for the administration of an abortion-inducing drug,” the league said in a statement. “These additional requirements are overly burdensome for an individual who may not have quick and easy access to these medical services, may be uninsured or may not have the flexibility in their work schedule to accommodate the increased requirements.”