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Wisconsin Antiabortion-Rights Laws Send Women Across State Lines for Abortion Care

Wisconsin Antiabortion-Rights Laws Send Women Across State Lines for Abortion Care

July 27, 2015 — Women in Wisconsin seeking an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy are going to Illinois, Michigan or Minnesota "[a]lmost as standard practice," given the myriad abortion restrictions enacted in the state, Minneapolis City Pages reports.

Abortion Restrictions

According to City Pages, Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Monday signed into law (Act 56) a 20-week abortion ban that makes "it a felony to perform an abortion after that point except when the woman's on the verge of death." It does not include exceptions for instances of rape or incest, or when a fetal anomaly is discovered at that point of pregnancy.

Further, since Walker has taken office, funding for Planned Parenthood has been reduced "to the point where it has only three clinics serving the entire state of Wisconsin, and only one other private clinic in Milwaukee practices abortion," City Pages reports. Meanwhile, the state also imposes a mandatory 24-hour delay and requires physicians to perform ultrasounds and display the images prior to an abortion.

Women Leave State for Abortion Care

According to City Pages, the need for women in the state to access abortion care outside of Wisconsin "is so dire that some organizations have special funding set aside to help women travel to Minnesota," such as the Women's Medical Fund.

Eliza Cussen, a board member at NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin, said abortion "[a]ccess is almost nonexistent" in the state. She added, "There are a number of physical access barriers and emotional barriers that prevent Wisconsin women from getting care in their own state."

Meanwhile, Nicole Safar, director of government relations at Planned Parenthood Wisconsin, said women affected by the 20-week abortion ban will be those for whom travel is the most dangerous. "A lot of the physicians [who] testified against this bill said they thought there would be many cases where a woman's health would be at risk, but it wouldn't qualify for a medical emergency," Safar said, adding, "This is the state of Wisconsin making pregnancy more dangerous for women, saying to women who have preeclampsia (pregnancy-induced high blood pressure), 'You're not quite going to die, but even if you're not doing that great, you're going to have to travel.'"

Separately, Jen Aulwen, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Minnesota, said it was not clear how many more women from Wisconsin would seek out care in Minnesota because of the new ban. However, she noted that her organization already receives patients from North Dakota and South Dakota -- which each have only one abortion clinic -- on a routine basis (Du, Minneapolis City Pages, 7/23).