Hypocrisy on Capitol Hill as “Small Government” Conservatives Impose on Wisconsin Women

A bill known as SB 206  continues to move through the Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature despite numerous provisions explicitly changing the nature of the doctor-patient relationship. Apparently, the same Republican majority expected to turn down $120 million for Badgercare because it comes as part of the allegedly invasive Affordable Care Act has no problem issuing mandates of their own when it comes to matters of women’s health.

On Monday, the Wisconsin Medical Society issued a press release detailing which parts of the bill they found most troubling:

“The Society’s main concern about SB 206 is how it infringes upon the physician-patient relationship in regards to decision making for a legal medical procedure. That SB 206 focuses on an emotional topic—abortion—makes the overall issue more complicated, yet the underlying principle remains the same…The Society believes that all medical care should follow a full and confidential discussion between a patient and her/his physician—there should be no exceptions to that relationship simply because a certain procedure is controversial.

The legislation injects specific steps that a physician must take when discussing a patient’s impending
decision:

• Performing or arranging for an ultrasound.
• Providing a simultaneous oral explanation during the ultrasound, with specific information.
• Displaying the ultrasound images in a way that allows the patient to view them.
• Providing a medical description of the ultrasound, with further specific information required.
• Providing a way for the patient to visualize a fetal heartbeat while providing an oral report.

This legislation essentially provides a script that the physician must follow: perform a test and provide information that may not be medically indicated, or else face monetary damages and potential civil liability—even in a lawsuit filed by a patient’s relative. This intrusion in the patient-physician relationship is unacceptable. Physicians should be deciding with their patients what tests and procedures are needed and will be performed based on the best available medical evidence, guidelines of care, and shared decision making between the patient and physician. Mandatory performance of an ultrasound before an abortion is not an accepted medical practice or standard of care. Thus, this practice does not add to the quality or safety of the medical care being provided…”

Other organizations of medical professionals issues similar statements in opposition to this legislation. The Wisconsin Section of the American Congress of Obstreticians and Gynecologists (ACOG) writes:

“The medical practices surrounding elective abortion, including the role of ultrasound when medically indicated, are the domain of the physician-patient relationship, in which the government has no valid role…To force a physician to recite a scripted oral description of the findings if the pregnant woman declines is abusive. The proposed requirements do not make abortion safer for women, but do create unnecessary bureaucratic barriers and add both emotional and financial stress to an already difficult decision.”

Aside from the blatant overreach into doctors’ offices around the state, this bill also includes language obviously designed to discriminate against abortion providers – with the intention of restricting women’s access to these services altogether. Specifically, one section of SB 206 requires that a doctor may not provide abortion services unless he or she has admitting privileges at a hospital within a 30 mile radius. ACOG also came out specifically against mandating this unrealistically high requirement, writing:

“The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) believes physicians who provide medical and surgical procedures, including abortion services, in their offices, clinics, or freestanding ambulatory care facilities should have a plan to ensure prompt emergency services if a complication occurs and should establish a mechanism for transferring patients who require emergency treatment. However, ACOG opposes legislation or other requirements that single out abortion services from other outpatient procedures. For example, ACOG opposes laws or other regulations that require abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges. ACOG also opposes facility regulations that are more stringent for abortion than for other surgical procedures of similar low risk.”

Furthermore, Planned Parenthood has announced that were SB 206 to pass the legislature, they would be forced to stop providing abortions in their Grand Chute clinic. According to the Public Policy Director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, this “means women from Appleton and rural areas seeking abortions would have to travel hours to Planned Parenthood’s other facilities in Madison and Milwaukee, where more qualified physicians are available.”

In sum, the move by Republicans on Capitol Hill to shove through this controversial bill while most of Wisconsin is still reeling from the JFC’s outrageously partisan budget is fundamentally irresponsible. We urge you to contact your representatives and show your support for free and uninhibited women’s healthcare in the state.

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