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Planned Parenthood Argues To Expand Abortion Access In Wisconsin

Lawsuit Aims To Strike Republican-Backed State Laws Including Physician-Only Abortions

A gavel in a courtroom.
Joe Gratz (CC0 1.0)

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin was in federal court Monday challenging three state abortion restrictions that the organization believes unconstitutionally limits access to care.

If successful, the lawsuit would broaden the ability to have an abortion in Wisconsin, particularly in rural areas of the state, where the procedure is not available.

Planned Parenthood provides abortion care at three of its 21 locations in Wisconsin: Madison; Milwaukee; and Sheboygan.

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Tanya Atkinson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, said deciding to start a family, delay becoming a parent, or end a pregnancy are personal decisions.

“It’s our responsibility, and we are always looking for ways to ensure people have access to the health care they need,” Atkinson said. “Part of that means that if we prevail in this lawsuit, we could expand (abortion) access to other parts of the state.”

The lawsuit was filed in January 2019 and challenges several Republican-backed state laws, including one that allows only doctors to perform abortions. The group argues advance practice nurses, including nurse practitioners and midwives, should be able to perform abortions.

In Wisconsin, those nurses provide care to patients who experience early pregnancy loss.

Planned Parenthood does not employ full-time physicians and its abortion providers are physicians who work part time.

Other requirements mentioned in the lawsuit mandate that someone must see the same practitioner for two required visits before receiving an abortion and that a physician must be physically present when a patient receives their prescription for abortion drugs.

Atkinson acknowledged Wisconsin is divided politically, and she said she doesn’t know how people will feel if her organization prevails.

“Planned Parenthood Wisconsin is challenging these restrictions because they do interfere with a person’s ability to make their own health care decisions and make it more difficult to access the care they need,” Atkinson said.

Representatives from the state Department of Justice, which is representing Wisconsin in the lawsuit, could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.

Kristen Nupson, legislative director of Wisconsin Right to Life, called Monday’s trial “heartbreaking.”

“Abortion isn’t health care; it cannot be compared to a biopsy or a birth control procedure,” Nupson said in a written statement.

Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action, a pro-life organization based in Madison, said claims that women don’t have access to abortions are untrue.

“We believe this is a dangerous road for the state to go down,” Appling said. “Medical abortion is not without risk. If Planned Parenthood prevails, and they open up all of their sites to do these, women will suffer from that, and certainly their unborn children will be killed because of the courts.”