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Wisconsin senators hear testimony on two abortion-related measures

Wisconsin senators hear testimony on two abortion-related measures

STATE OF THE STATE (copy)

Rep. Andre Jacque before the State of the State address in the Assembly chambers at the state Capitol in Madison on Wednesday, January 24, 2018. Jacque's two abortion-related bills received a public hearing before the Senate Human Services, Children and Families Committee Wednesday.

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University of Wisconsin officials warned a Republican-backed bill aiming to bar employees from performing or assisting with abortions as part of their work would pose "a serious threat to the future of our ob-gyn residency training program."

The effort, which largely mirrors a 2017 bill that died after failing to receive floor votes in either chamber, is one of two abortion-related measures from state Sen. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere that received a public hearing Wednesday — though it's unlikely Democratic Gov. Tony Evers both approve either.

Four years ago, the abortion training bill received staunch opposition from UW officials, who feared a loss of accreditation for their ob-gyn residency program from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and dissuade faculty and students from coming to Madison.

Those same concerns returned during testimony Wednesday, as supporters of the measure characterized the push as a way to end an agreement that they say violates the spirit of a law that bars state and federal funds from covering costs related to most abortions.

Since 2008, the UW School of Medicine and Public Health has entered into agreements with Planned Parenthood, under which Planned Parenthood purchases the physicians' time through a memorandum of understanding that also allows ob-gyn residents to participate in a family planning rotation.

"While we appreciate the idea that funds are separated, they still are working for Planned Parenthood and are still official members of the faculty at the UW," Wisconsin Right to Life executive director Heather Weininger told lawmakers. "And we believe that relationship needs to end."

But UW officials, including UW School of Medicine and Public Health Dean Robert Golden said the arrangement came about as officials worked to follow state and federal law. In addition to risking the program's accreditation, Golden said the effect of the legislation would be to worsen an existing shortage of ob-gyn physicians because of an anticipated drop in residents trained in the specialty.

"The passage of this bill will dramatically damage, perhaps eliminate, the applicant pool for our residency program since applicants and their advisors will be aware of the likelihood of a citation as the initial step toward loss of accreditation," he said.

While Golden said Wednesday that students with moral or religious objections are able to opt out, Jacque said his bill would expand the applicant pool by reversing UW's "reputation of being hostile to pro-life residents."

“Any pro life student would have pause with going to the UW, knowing that this sort of arrangement is in place,” the De Pere Republican added.

Pro-Life Wisconsin is registered in support of the measure, according to the state's Eye on Lobbying website (though others also spoke in favor of the bill, including those with ties to the Catholic Medical Association), while Planned Parenthood, the Medical College of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Medical Society and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are among those that oppose the effort.

Lawmakers also heard testimony on a bill that would require certain abortion providers to share additional information about each abortion performed with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, which already collects certain demographic information, the date of the procedure and more.

Specifically, the provisions would compel hospitals, clinics or other facilities where induced abortions are performed to report the sex of the aborted fetus if it can be determined via visual inspection, whether the fetus had an anomaly and, if so, what the nature of it was.

Additionally, while the information DHS currently collects is done anonymously, the bill would require the agency to publicize the name of the facility in which the abortion was performed, though the patient and individual health care provider would remain anonymous.

Jacque last session tried to add in those reporting requirements via amendment to one of the four abortion-related bills Evers vetoed. But after that attempt failed, he added the language to a broader bill seeking to ban the use of aborted fetal tissue in research. The bill failed to get a hearing in either chamber.

This time around, the new reporting requirements are in a standalone bill, without language to prohibit the use of fetal tissue obtained from abortions for research or any other purpose.

Pro-Life Wisconsin is the only entity registered in support of the bill, per the Eye on Lobbying site, while three others are registered against it: Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin.

Briana Reilly covers state government and politics for the Cap Times. She joined the staff in 2019, after working at WisPolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter at @briana_reilly.

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