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Head of anti-abortion group files license complaints against Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, OB-GYN

Director of Pro-Life Wisconsin says he filed complaints after local law enforcement refused to take action. Planned Parenthood leader says it's meant to intimidate doctors.

A medical chair is reclined and lined with paper.
The clinic is prepared before patients arrive Friday, May 27, 2022, at Planned Parenthood’s Water Street Health Center in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

The head of an anti-abortion group in Wisconsin has filed medical license complaints against doctors who support abortion care in the state, including one physician who is no longer practicing medicine in Wisconsin.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel first reported Wednesday that Pro-Life Wisconsin’s state director Dan Miller had filed the complaints with the state Department of Safety and Professional Services.

It comes two weeks after Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin resumed abortion services at their clinics in Milwaukee and Madison.

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The organization stopped providing abortions in 2022 after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, citing a state abortion ban first written in 1849 that was never taken off the books. But in July, a Dane County Circuit judge said the law applies to feticide and not consensual abortion, prompting Planned Parenthood to resume the service.

Miller said he believes Planned Parenthood is violating state law, and he is frustrated by the lack of response from local law enforcement in Milwaukee and Dane counties.

“The people that we elected to uphold the law won’t do it,” he said. “That’s maybe a little more concerning than Planned Parenthood just saying, ‘We’re not going to follow the laws.’”

Miller said he was initially motivated to file a complaint against Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin’s Medical Director, Dr. Kathy King. He also filed a complaint against the statewide organization as well as Dr. Kristin Lyerly, an OB-GYN from Green Bay who advocates for abortion rights and who is a former candidate for state Assembly.

“She’s on record as doing abortions with Planned Parenthood,” Miller said. “I wanted to file a complaint against all of (their providers) but I didn’t know who all of them were.”

Lyerly declined an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio, but her attorney, Diane Welsh, said Lyerly was notified of the complaint on Monday. Welsh said Lyerly has not practiced medicine in Wisconsin since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022 and is currently working in Minnesota.

“She’s not providing any patient care in Wisconsin, which shows how devoid of facts the complaint is,” Welsh said. “The complainant clearly just heard that Planned Parenthood was providing care and filed a complaint against Dr. Lyerly with zero factual basis.”

Lyerly told the Washington Post last month that she planned to immediately return to providing abortions in Wisconsin after the Planned Parenthood announcement. But Welsh said on Wednesday that Lyerly has been waiting to resume care in the state until a final judgment is issued in the Dane County lawsuit challenging the long-dormant state law. Lyerly is one of the medical providers who moved to intervene in the case filed by Attorney General Josh Kaul last November.

Michelle Velasquez, chief strategy officer for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, said her organization has not received any notice from the state that a complaint has been filed. Velasquez said she could not speak to any complaints filed against individuals.

She said it’s not surprising to see these types of complaints filed, calling them an attempt by anti-abortion groups to “harass and try to intimidate physicians”.

“There’s a lot of talk about calling on district attorneys to charge physicians and that hasn’t been successful,” Velasquez said. “So the next tactic that is being utilized is the professional licensing agency.”

She said the threat of the complaints don’t change anything for Planned Parenthood and the organization will provide DSPS with a response if requested to do so.

Welsh said she has requested that the state agency close the complaint against Lyerly without further action.

Miller said he’s hopeful the complaints will motivate the doctors to stop providing abortions and give providers “a moment of pause”.

“They’ve worked hard their whole lives to get a medical license,” he said. “I’m sure they’d go to great lengths to keep everyone happy that they work with and, I don’t know, violating the law isn’t a great way to do that.”

Miller said he believes the case challenging the 19th century law is far from settled and will likely end up at the Wisconsin Supreme Court.