Due to new regulations on medical and webcam abortions, Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin will stop offering medical abortions. According to Planned Parenthood, the new legal regulations make administrating RU-486 so troublesome that they no longer feel comfortable providing the service.
The Coercive and Webcam Abortion Prevention Act (Act 217) is said to address the concerns of women by providing a doctor’s presence during the procedure and making frequent checks on her during the process to insure no one coerced her into the abortion.
The new regulation also bans telemed abortions. With a telemed abortion, the woman sees a doctor via webcam, instead of in person. Telemed services are generally provided for women who visit clinics in rural areas, but no clinic in the state uses the service.
The bill also requires the doctor to see the patient within 12 to 18 days after the abortion. The woman can chose not to accept the after care visit, but if the doctor does not see her, s/he could face a Class 1 felony charge, with a fine of $10,000 and/or 3 ½ years in prison. The patient, who refuses, faces no penalty.
Huyck called the law "vague" and "problematic." She said the agency will be suspending medication abortions "until we can get more clarity."
"It's very difficult for a physician to know when he or she is compliance with the law," Huyck said.
Medical Society President Dr. Tosha Wetterneck said the law is an "unprecedented intrusion into the patient-doctor relationship" and requires doctors to follow procedures that are not considered to be the best medical practices.
The new law also requires that no one, but the doctor, patient, and staff, be in the room while discussing whether or not someone is coercing her into the abortion, despite some women needing someone with them to understand the procedure.
"We are asking doctors to reduce their quality of care to avoid felony charges," [Wetterneck] said.
The Republican sponsored bill passed with a 60-33 vote, with mostly Republicans voting in favour of it and 17-15 voting in favour of it in the Senate.
It is among a series of measures passed in the last legislative session targeting abortion, sexual education and Planned Parenthood.
The state has eliminated all state funding to Planned Parenthood to provide breast and cervical cancer screenings, contraception and testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.
Wisconsin also has banned privately paid insurance plans offered under government-arranged health insurance exchanges from covering the cost of abortion except in cases of rape, incest or if a mother's life is at stake. Currently no state or federal funding can be used for abortions.
Governor Scott Walker signed the bill into law about two weeks ago, but Planned Parenthood’s lawyers need more time to analyze the bill to insure they can comply with the new law without endangering their careers.
"We have our lawyers looking at ambiguity," explained Safar. "We have not even had two weeks to look at this. The legislature is actually dictating patient care, and we are working with our lawyers to see how this effects medical best practices and procedures. With the law going in effect today, it is too risky to have our doctors do this."
Doctors can administrate RU-486 safely through the first nine weeks of pregnancy. The drug blocks progesterone, which is needed to sustain the pregnancy. The clinic provides the medication, but the woman can take it at home and terminate the pregnancy safely. Many women prefer to take at home, rather than at the clinic.