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Wisconsin Republicans Hold Hearing On UW Abortion Ban

Ann Althouse
Opponents of the ban say it would put federal accreditation of the UW-Madison obstetrics-gynecology program at risk, jeopardizing the quality of the entire medical program.

Updated Thursday at 7:55 a.m. CDT

All University of Wisconsin System and UW health workers would be banned from performing abortions or training others to perform abortions under a Republican bill that was up for a public hearing Wednesday in a state legislative committee.

The bill’s chief sponsor, Sen. Andre Jacque, said the measure is designed to stop state-funded UW physicians from performing abortions at Planned Parenthood’s Madison clinic, a practice he argues violates a state law forbidding taxpayer-funded abortions.

"The UW seeks to continue propping up Planned Parenthood and Madison's abortion facility by having state employees on state time within the scope of their state employment, paid by state taxpayers and with state benefits, perform abortions, participate in abortion procedures, and trained to be abortionists. Please join us in putting a stop to it," Jacque said Wednesday.

Dr. Robert Golden, dean of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health said the physicians and residents who train or teach at the Planned Parenthood clinic are not being reimbursed with taxpayer dollars.

Golden said Planned Parenthood pays residents and provides their malpractice insurance and reimburses faculty through the UW Medical Foundation. "UW Medical Foundation has no access to any state money. The Planned Parenthood money goes into UW Medical Foundation for its paycheck. And that's why we can say that there is no state money that is involved in the current situation," he said.

The bill, Golden said, would put at risk federal accreditation of the university’s obstetrics-gynecology program, jeopardizing the quality of the entire medical program.

He quoted a letter from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, or ACGME: "The obstetrics and gynecology program requirements include a core requirement that, quote, programs must provide training or access to training in the provision of abortions, and this must be part of the planned curriculum."

Golden said, per ACGME, medical schools have to train residents in induced abortions and provide clinical education at their own sites or those of other institutions. OBGYN residents with a moral or religious objection can opt out of the training.

But Jacque was skeptical about the accreditation claim. "Some of the UW have put forward a false and extremely disingenuous public defense that its exceptionally pro-abortion policies are necessary to maintain medical school accreditation. In reality, the state of Arizona has a virtually identical restriction on the use of public funding for the provision of abortion or abortion training to what is proposed in this bill, and that has been in place since 2011."

Golden said the Arizona bill is not identical because Jacque’s bill would ban the activity, not just its state funding.

The debate in Wisconsin comes as the fight over abortion has intensified nationally in recent weeks. The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to consider a Mississippi law aimed at overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that established a right to abortion.

And a federal judge in Madison is set to rule soon on whether to expand availability of abortion-inducing pills in Wisconsin.

The prospects of Jacque’s bill are uncertain. Jacque introduced an identical bill in 2017. It did not advance beyond committee. If this year's measure were to pass the Republican-controlled Legislature, it would almost certainly face a veto from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

The Wisconsin Medical Society, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin and UW-Madison faculty group PROFS have all registered in opposition to this year's bill. Pro-Life Wisconsin is the only group registered in support.

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