Ignoring Objections of Major Medical Groups, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Signs Cruel Ban on Abortion at 20 Weeks of Pregnancy

For Immediate Release

Ignoring Objections of Major Medical Groups, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Signs Cruel Ban on Abortion at 20 Weeks of Pregnancy

WISCONSIN - Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed a measure into law today which bans safe and legal abortion after twenty weeks of pregnancy with an extremely narrow exception for medical emergencies.

HB179—which is slated to take effect next year—was opposed by major medical groups in the state, including the Wisconsin Section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the Wisconsin Medical Society, the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians, and the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics because of the dangers to a woman’s health and wellbeing.  A group of 100 obstetrician-gynecologists directed a letter to Governor Walker and the Wisconsin legislature opposing the ban because “SB 179 would block Wisconsin ob-gyns from being able to treat our patients in a medically appropriate and humane manner. This bill would undoubtedly place us in the unconscionable position of having to watch our patients and their loved ones undergo emotional trauma, illness and suffering during what is already a difficult time.” 

Wisconsin women who seek abortion services already face extreme barriers to care, as there are only four clinics providing abortion services in the entire state.  Additionally, Wisconsin clinics have been fighting to keep their doors open in the face of a clinic shutdown law since 2013.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Wisconsin politicians have criminalized safe, legal abortion services at the same time they are attempting to eliminate all abortion services by shutting down clinics with sham laws and red tape.

“With this law, women in Wisconsin will soon face a catch-22 of shrinking options earlier in pregnancy and a complete ban on services later in pregnancy. Women deserve to make their own health care decisions with the medical professionals she trusts, not interference from her governor or legislature who presume to know better. ” 

The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held—first in Roe v. Wade and again in Planned Parenthood v. Casey—that states cannot ban abortion prior to viability. Last year, the Supreme Court refused to review a decision permanently blocking Arizona’s ban on abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, and courts in Idaho and Georgia have also recently blocked similar pre-viability bans.

Bans on abortion at 20 weeks take critical medical decisions out of the hands of women and their trusted health care providers at a time when those services may be the best medical option for a variety of reasons. Furthermore, measures like Wisconsin’s prohibit services at a point at which a woman is just receiving the results of critical tests to determine the health of her pregnancy—and potentially the presence of life-threatening complications and severe fetal abnormalities.

The devastating impact of these cruel laws are evident in stories like Whitney’s, a woman who has spoken out about her experience needing an abortion after 20 weeks in North Carolina, one of 11 states in the U.S. where the services are currently banned. After receiving a difficult diagnosis, she was forced to travel out of state to get the safe, legal care she needed and had a constitutional right to obtain.

Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 217/HR. 448)—a bill that would prohibit states like Wisconsin from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.

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The Center for Reproductive Rights uses the law to advance reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right that all governments are legally obligated to protect, respect, and fulfill.

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