On April 7, state Republicans introduced a bill addressing an agreement between the University of Wisconsin and Planned Parenthood, claiming the university’s relationship with the organization violates statutes forbidding the use of state funds for abortions.
“UW should get out of the abortion industry,” said De Pere Republican Rep. André Jacque, one of the bill’s sponsors, later labelling faculty members “abortionists.”
Since 2008, the UW School of Medicine and Public Health has worked with local Planned Parenthood centers to provide training for doctors and nurses in reproductive health — an elective course including instruction on abortion and family planning. Resident doctors gain experience and fulfill Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education requirements through work at local clinics, as well as providing services for their community.
Representatives from multiple UW schools objected to the bill, noting the legislation would severely impact accreditation and current training in OB-GYN services. Any work at outside centers providing abortions would also be prohibited while employed under the university, cutting off access to community work experience often sought in job applications.
The bill’s sponsors claim this legislation will not harm the university’s ability to maintain ACGME accreditation, citing similar legislation passed at the University of Arizona. But the legislation passed in Arizona also forbade students from funding the training themselves.
According to a 2005 survey in the “American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology,” more than 55 percent of medical schools across the country reported giving no clinical exposure to students for abortion services at all. Without access to abortion services, it would be extremely difficult for UW to train students, prompting concerns doctors would graduate with little to no experience in reproductive health care.
This attack on Planned Parenthood has little to do with taxpayer money. Targeting the training for abortion procedures is unnecessary, and the hypocrisy of this attack is evident in the bill’s text. Prohibitions for training are conspicuously absent in the case of rape, incest or the possibility of death or grave injury of the mother.
As someone who has used Planned Parenthood resources, community physicians such as UW faculty are essential to the future of women’s health. Prohibiting faculty from working at Planned Parenthood centers removes critical health services such as sexually transmitted disease testing, birth control prescriptions and other family planning measures. For some women, these are the only doctors or medical personnel they will ever see.
Training and OB-GYN services at Planned Parenthood provide critical opportunities for doctors to learn abortion procedures, both elective and life-saving. Knowledge of and experience with reproductive health care is imperative at a time when more than 650,000 U.S. women reported having an abortion in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Shaming the existence of legal abortion in the state is counterproductive, and only serves to underscore the lack of concern Republicans have for women’s health care. If legislators truly wanted to lower abortion rates in Wisconsin, they would increase access to birth control and family planning resources — both of which are significant contributors to the decline in teenage pregnancy rates.
It is clear Republican legislators would rather students and faculty have limited experience in abortion procedures at all than acknowledge Planned Parenthood as a legitimate health resource for the community. This thinly veiled attack on UW faculty again emphasizes Republicans will target abortion through any means necessary.
At the end of the day, those this bill most severely impacts will be poor women and doctors, many of whom provide critical community and state services. Advocating for this legislation ignores the legitimacy of women’s health services and the right of women to accessible, safe health care. Framing it as anything other than a restriction on legal abortion is hypocritical and short-sighted.