Wis. Medication Abortion Law Tied to Increase in Surgical Abortions, Group Says

September 4, 2013 — The number of surgical abortions in Wisconsin increased by 8% in 2012, while the overall number of abortions decreased, according to state records, the Appleton Post Crescent reports.

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin said the increase in surgical abortions -- the first since the state started tracking abortion methods in 1998 -- is related to a law (Act 217) that led the group to stop offering medication abortions last year because of legal concerns over how to comply with the measure's vague requirements (Linnane, Appleton Post Crescent, 9/2).

This summer, PPWI's clinics in Appleton, Madison and Milwaukee resumed offering medication abortions after a judge issued a temporary injunction blocking portions of the measure.

Under the law, physicians and patients have to meet several requirements before a medication abortion, including the completion of three office visits and multiple steps to verify that the woman is seeking the abortion voluntarily (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/13). The law also requires physicians to be physically present when administering medication abortion, but it does not specify whether they must also be present to deliver the second pill, which the woman normally would take at home. The law also prohibits the use of telemedicine in abortion care, which PPWI has no plans to use.

The group said the law's requirements are too vague for doctors, who could face criminal and civil penalties if they do not comply.


Nicole Safer, public policy director for PPWI, said the law takes away "a good, valid, safe health care option for no other reason but a political reason." According to the Post Crescent, medication abortion has increasingly been used by women since the FDA approved it for general use in 2000.

Susan Armacost -- legislative director for Wisconsin Right to Life -- said the law has helped drive down the number of abortions "across the board," adding that the group thinks it is "great" that any type of abortion has been avoided (Appleton Post Crescent, 9/2).