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Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin announces it will resume abortion care

‘The people needed us to make a health care decision and we were fortunately able to do that,’ the president of Planned Parenthood Wisconsin said.

By Rebekah Sager - September 15, 2023
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Abortion rights protesters in Madison, Wisconsin
Protesters make their way to the Wisconsin Capitol Rotunda in Madison during a march supporting abortion access on Jan. 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)

In a stunning announcement, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin says it will resume providing abortion care in less than a week.

Tanya Atkinson, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Wisconsin, announced on Sept. 14 that centers in both Milwaukee and Madison will reopen for abortion care starting Sept. 18.

The U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade in June 2022 put into effect a restrictive statute already on the books and dating back to 1849 that made it a felony to perform an abortion. The ban forced providers in the state to stop offering abortion care.

Atkinson told the American Independent Foundation that having to suspend abortion services was devastating for the people of Wisconsin.

“We’ve seen firsthand the obstacles that people had to face to access care,” Atkinson said. Referring to a Planned Parenthood program that refers patients in abortion-restrictive states to resources that can help them obtain abortion care, Atkinson continued: “We started the Navigator Program to try to remove as many barriers as possible. And even with all of that, sometimes those obstacles were insurmountable for people.”

She said:

This care has been so politicized, and our decision to resume care was squarely a medical decision, because we see what’s happening to people. … I’m from Wisconsin and grew up in a really rural part of Wisconsin, and I know how far we have to drive in rural Wisconsin to access health care, and so having to go even further is an incredible barrier. And also, this care is essential and it’s needed, and if it’s not accessed, it can be devastating and in some cases life-threatening.

Just days after Roe was overturned, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul and Gov. Tony Evers, both Democrats, filed a lawsuit challenging the 1849 abortion law.

In July, Dane County Circuit Judge Diane Schlipper ruled that the lawsuit could proceed. Schlipper’s ruling moved the case closer to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Schlipper said in her ruling that the 1849 law applies only to an attack on a pregnant person for the purpose of killing a fetus, or feticide.

“There is no such thing as an ‘1849 Abortion Ban’ in Wisconsin. A physician who performs a consensual medical abortion commits a crime only ‘after the fetus or unborn child reaches viability,'” Schlipper wrote.

Atkinson said while polls have shown again and again that the people of Wisconsin support a right to abortion care, “The Dane County ruling was what gave us the clarity, really, to be able to resume care again, regardless of what is happening with the Supreme Court right now in the background.”

In August, Judge Janet Protasiewicz was sworn in as a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice, giving the state’s highest court a liberal majority. Kaul and Evers’ lawsuit could very well come before the court which, with a liberal majority, could strike down the ban. 

In a statement following Atkinson’s announcement, Evers said: “Today’s announcement from Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin as a result of our lawsuit regarding Wisconsin’s criminal abortion ban means Wisconsinites will once again be able to access vital reproductive healthcare and abortion services without exception for the first time since June of last year.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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