UW Medical School Warns Against Bill Limiting Abortion Training

Proposal Would Cost School Its OB-GYN Accreditation, Administrators Say

Wisconsin state Capitol
Laura Zimmerman/WPR

Medical school faculty and students on Tuesday called a bill that would bar them from performing abortions a “serious threat” to OB-GYN training in Wisconsin.

Under the GOP-backed proposal, employees of the University of Wisconsin System or the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority would be barred from performing or assisting in the performance of an abortion.

Opponents to the plan say the UW School of Medicine and Public Health’s OB-GYN training program would lose its accreditation if it were approved.

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At a public hearing on the bill, Joseph Lalli, a medical school student, said he wouldn’t feel prepared to perform life-saving procedures for expectant mothers if he can’t get training on how to perform abortions.

“Many common medical complications that arise during pregnancy can only be treated by delivering the fetus,” Lalli said. “I need to know how to perform this technique, and I don’t see how I’m going to be able to if this bill passes.”

Lalli cited conditions like preeclampsia, which requires terminating pregnancy to prevent death of the mother.

“If students like me never learn how to perform these techniques, women will suffer,” he said.

The bill would allow abortion training, but it would have to occur at a hospital. Lalli argued an emergency room setting would be a “chaotic” learning environment.

UW School of Medicine and Public Health leadership also testified that the bill, if passed, would lead to declining enrollment in the school’s OB-GYN program and the departure of faculty, contributing to Wisconsin’s OB-GYN shortage.

“If this bill passes, it destroys our OB-GYN residency training program,” said Robert Golden, dean of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. “This is not a bill about abortions, this is a bill about training the next generation of OB-GYN doctors.”

The bill would also bar employees of the UW System or hospital and clinics from performing abortions at Planned Parenthood. Some UW faculty perform abortions and train students there now.

Supporters of the measure argue the school won’t lose its accreditation, and raise questions about whether UW doctors are being paid to perform abortions with the state money. Medical school administrators argue state money isn’t used, because Planned Parenthood reimburses the school for the procedures performed by UW doctors.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, argues that isn’t good enough.

“Would we continually allow and pay state employees to run a strip joint on state time, or harvest organs from political prisoners for the Chinese government as long as someone else eventually reimburses the state for their salary?” Jacque said.

Another co-sponsor, Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, argued the measure will protect unborn children.

“You really cannot stand for any more babies being killed and, even worse, on the state’s dime,” Vukmir said.

The bill was heard in an Assembly committee in July. It hasn’t been brought up for a vote yet in the Assembly or Senate committees.

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