Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin has announced they will be suspending their medical abortion practice immediately, citing new regulations that make administering RU-486 so onerous that the health care group no longer feels comfortable providing it.
The new law, dubbed the Coercive and Webcam Abortion Prevention Act (Act 217), is said by sponsors to address concerns with women’s safety by both ensuring a doctor is present at all times during the process of getting an medical abortion, and making the doctor undertake numerous “checks” to prove that the patient is not being “coerced” into terminating the pregnancy.
It also bans “telemed” abortions — where a woman speaks with a doctor via webcam rather than see the doctor in person, a practice that allows women in rural clinics that do not have a provider on staff to be able to obtain abortions more easily — even though no clinic in the state offers them.
The bill further requires the doctor to provide a follow up check up on the patient within 12 to 18 days following the medication abortion. Although the patient can turn down the appointment or see her own physician, the physician who provided the medication could still potentially be charged with a Class 1 felony for not seeing her again, according to Dr. Tosha Wetterneck, President of the Medical Society. That charge could bring with it a $10,000 fine, 3 1/2 years in jail, or both.
“Act 213 places an unprecedented burden on women and physicians providing medication abortion,” said Terry Huyck, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin via conference call. “Doctors who do not comply with the procedures could be subject to felony charges, even if it conflicts with medical best practices.”
Nicole Safar, the group’s Public Policy Director, noted that with Governor Scott Walker signing the bill into law less than 2 weeks ago, and prior to the Easter holiday, their lawyers simply have not had enough time to fully analyze the impact the new law has on the procedure and how, or even if, their providers can comply without endangering their own 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.”
Medical abortion is often done through administration of RU-486 by a doctor; the drug can be used safely within the first nine weeks of pregnancy, starting from last menstrual period. RU 486 blocks the creation of progesterone needed to sustain a pregnancy. Although the medication is provided in a clinic and by a doctor, women are able to complete the termination safely in the privacy of their own home, which many women prefer.
The United State has been doing medical abortions since 2000. Roughly 25 percent of the 4,827 performed by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin were medical abortions.