Gov. Scott Walker signed 64 bills into law April 3, one of which prohibits state insurance from covering abortions for public employees. The only exceptions to this ban are in cases of rape or incest, or when the abortion is necessary to protect the mother’s life. But women cannot self-proclaim the necessity of an abortion — the insurance company and medical provider must cooperatively do so and this is done on a case-by-case basis.
Previous law already barred Medicaid coverage of abortion, unless deemed medically necessary. Medically necessary abortions, also called therapeutic abortions, are cases in which continuation of the pregnancy would pose significant health risks, either mental or physical, to the mother or the baby. This new law provides clearer stipulations for what constitutes a medically necessary abortion.
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In an official statement, Director of Government Relations at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin Nicole Safar said “Once again, Republicans in our state make it a priority to take away health insurance coverage that women currently have. That’s what AB 128 does, ends existing coverage for women who are facing complicated pregnancies. This bill doesn’t prevent abortions, it compromises maternal health.”
In a follow-up email to The Badger Herald, PPWI Media Relations Specialist Iris Riis talked about just how narrow the exceptions for this bill regarding state insurance coverage of abortion really are. According to Riis, the likelihood of insurance companies jumping through legislative hoops to cover a woman’s abortion is slim to none.
On the flip-side, the pro-life sector of the state sees the bill as a victory. For them, the previous abortion bill left the term “medically necessary abortions” too ambiguous. The Wisconsin Right to Life stated the group had been waiting for 23 years for this sort of legislation to happen and “This law significantly protects taxpayers’ rights, since no one should be forced to subsidize the taking of innocent human life.”
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Regarding this statement, it is necessary to point out that state employees pay for the state insurance the bill inhibits. The taxpayer has very little to do with it.
Walker’s restrictive actions for state employees has put the burden of pregnancy entirely on women. Medical abortions can cost up to $1,000 alone, with more involved procedures leading to higher costs. Without insurance, problematic pregnancies that end up in hospital abortions will be a significant financial burden on a woman, couple or family.
This bill is a step in the wrong direction for women’s rights in Wisconsin. For those who support women’s access to health care, specifically for those who identify as pro-choice, it is time to take to the polls. According to Riis, the best way to combat bills like this is to elect officials who “trust women to make their own healthcare decisions.”
Voting can have a real impact on the future of women’s health issues and reproductive justice. For example, just this week, Wisconsin elected Rebecca Dallet into the state Supreme Court. Electing a woman who campaigned for women’s rights is empowering and is a step in the right direction.
Change can happen, but it takes will and grit.
Emiliana Almanza Lopez ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in sociology and environmental science.