Planned Parenthood suspends pill abortions in Wis.

April 20, 2012 - 4:45 PM

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Planned Parenthood ended nonsurgical abortions at its Wisconsin clinics Friday because of a new state law that subjects doctors who perform abortions but don't follow certain procedures to criminal penalties.

The law, signed by Gov. Scott Walker two weeks ago after the Republican-controlled state Legislature passed it earlier this year, took effect Friday.

It mandates that women having nonsurgical abortions visit the same doctor three times and that doctors ensure the woman is having the procedure voluntarily and without coercion. Failure to follow those requirements could result in felony charges against the doctor.

The law does not affect emergency contraception, known as the morning-after pill.

Planned Parenthood president and chief executive officer Teri Huyck said because of confusion over the new law, nonsurgical abortions are being suspended. Planned Parenthood will continue to provide surgical abortions at its clinics in Madison, Milwaukee and the Appleton area, its leaders said.

"The added risks of felony penalties for physicians who provide medication abortion are unnecessary and intended to threaten a physician's ability to provide women with medication abortion," Huyck said. "The decision to end a pregnancy is a complex one, specific to each woman and her individual circumstances. Decisions about childbearing should be made by a woman in consultation with her family and doctor — not by politicians."

Four other states — Arizona, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota — have similar laws to Wisconsin's new law, according to the New York-based Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization that supports abortion rights. There is also a similar law set to take effect in Tennessee in July, and legislatures in Alabama, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Oklahoma were considering like-minded proposals, according to the Institute.

In Wisconsin on Friday, Planned Parenthood supporters denounced the new law, while abortion opponents praised the development.

Lisa Subeck, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin, said the law adds unnecessary and intrusive restrictions for abortion providers.

And Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who is one of four Democrats running against Walker in a recall election, said he would work to overturn the law if elected.

Abortion opponents, however, praised the development.

Barbara Lyons, executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life, called Planned Parenthood's decision a "true victory for Wisconsin women."

"This common sense law protects women at a time when it is most needed and provides help if she is a potential or real victim of domestic abuse," Lyons said in a statement.

Planned Parenthood said about 25 percent of women who terminate pregnancies use the pill-induced abortion method, which requires a woman to take two drugs within the first nine weeks of pregnancy.