Citizens in northern Wisconsin already have limited access to safe abortion care, and the Wisconsin state senate may soon pass a bill that would restrict that access even further. SB 208, or “Sonya’s Law,” which is likely to be voted on in the state senate Tuesday, is a forced ultrasound bill that would also require that doctors who provide abortions have admitting privileges at a local hospital. If the bill is passed, this provision is likely to close the only abortion provider in northern Wisconsin, the Planned Parenthood in Appleton.
The Appleton Planned Parenthood is one of just four abortion providers left in Wisconsin. Unlike the other three providers, which are located in large cities, the Appleton clinic is in a smaller town with a limited number of hospitals to try to obtain admitting privileges from.
Appleton itself has been a constant target of anti-choice “stings” and stunts over the past few years. For instance, the Center for Bioethical Reform chose Appleton as one of the cities in which to run graphic, anti-abortion airplane banners prior to the 2012 election. And this April, a homemade device exploded in the clinic, causing a fire. Finding a local hospital willing to open itself up to that level of harassment and even violence will likely be impossible.
If the Appleton clinic closes, people in the area who need to obtain an abortion would have to travel to Madison or Milwaukee, both near the southern border of the state, and endure the state’s forced 24-hour waiting period between counseling and termination. Others may consider traveling to clinics in the Twin Cities, Duluth, or Rochester, though those options are less viable for individuals in the eastern part of the state. Clinics in neighboring Michigan may also be difficult to access since the two states are separated by Lake Michigan.
“SB 206 will jeopardize women’s health immediately by forcing the end of abortion services for women in Appleton,” Teri Huyck, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, said in a statement. “The bill will reduce the number of abortion locations in Wisconsin to three, leaving women with no abortion provider north of Madison. This bill creates unnecessary hospital admitting privileges requirements for physicians who perform abortions as a tactic to end abortion access. Admitting privileges do not hasten a patient’s care in the event of an emergency.”