The state of Wisconsin has been experiencing a serious shortage of obstetricians/gynecologists over the past several years. 20 of the state’s 72 counties don’t even have a single one. It’s gotten so bad that the University of Wisconsin purposely established a rural residency program in hopes of ensuring that women in those OB/GYN-free counties will have more access to the care they need.
But a new bill threatens to undo all that good work, ensuring that the state will have even fewer OB/GYNs in coming years.
This new bill, introduced by State Rep. André Jacque, would ban medical students at public universities (like the University of Wisconsin-Madison) from even learning how to perform abortions using their current system. It would also prohibit doctors from performing or assisting in the performance of an abortion anywhere other than a hospital.
Maybe you think that’s not all bad. All that training can still occur at hospitals, right?
Well, Wisconsin law already prohibits public funds from being used for abortion training… so the way medical students currently get their training is through a partnership with Planned Parenthood. Which, as Jacque likely understands, is not a hospital. This bill would effectively put an end to abortion training altogether.
There’s another problem with that. Robert Golden, dean of UW-Madison’s medical school, explained to the Associated Press that the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education requires that obstetrics and gynecology students at least be offered the option of abortion training in order for the University to receive and maintain accreditation. (The UW System currently offers that training as an “opt-in” program, where students only learn how to perform abortions if they want to.)
That means if this bill passes, the university could lose its accreditation, which means students hoping to become OB/GYNs would have to go another state to get their training, which makes it even less likely that they’ll return to Wisconsin afterwards, which means those people in communities with no OB/GYNs will suffer even more.
The whole rural residency program would become irrelevant. Because how often do you think medical students who get their training in other states would go, “OOH! You know what? I’m gonna move to rural Wisconsin! For no apparent reason!”
If the schools lose their accreditation, they would also likely lose faculty members who prefer teaching at schools where degrees count for something.
Jacques denies that any of this would happen. In fact, he insists that the schools would not lose their accreditation were this bill to become law.
“I’m trying to get UW out of the abortion business,” he told the Associated Press. “I’m on pretty firm ground here.”
Or he’s not… because abortion isn’t illegal, and he’s not actually allowed to create an undue burden on women seeking the procedure. That ground is nowhere near as firm as he thinks it is — particularly considering that “state funds” aren’t even being used to continue the university system’s program.
Eleven groups have already registered their opposition to the bill, including Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
FFRF is testifying against the bill today at the Wisconsin State Capitol, in front of the Assembly Committee on Science and Technology. Their statement called the bill a “religiously motivated attack on one of our state’s most desperately needed secular institutions.”
FFRF reminds the committee members that they have each taken an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the state of Wisconsin. “It is not legislators’ prerogative to advance their personal religious beliefs when acting on behalf of their constituents,” [FRFF staff attorney Sam] Grover says.
He’s right. That would be ridiculous. Whether Jacques likes it or not, abortions are legal and he has no business dictating whether or not future doctors can learn to perform perfectly legal procedures that he happens to personally disagree with, much less screwing over the students and faculty members in state medical schools and the citizens who stand to lose the most by not having qualified doctors in their communities.