Signed by Gov. Walker on 7/20/15
Sadly, not every pregnancy goes as a woman and her family hope it will. Abortion later in pregnancy is very rare and often happens in the kind of situations where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available. Abortion bans like the one going forward in Wisconsin take away the opportunity for a woman who is facing a medically complex pregnancy to make private, personal decisions without government interference. Abortion bans are dangerous for women’s health and are just another attempt to end women’s access to safe, legal abortion in Wisconsin.
Abortion after 20 weeks in pregnancy is very rare and often happens in the kind of situations in which a woman and her doctor need every medical option available.
Nearly 99% of abortions in Wisconsin and the U.S. occur before 20 weeks’ gestation. In 2013, less than 100 abortions in Wisconsin occurred after 20 weeks, and almost half (48%) occurred before 8 weeks.
Sadly, abortions later in pregnancy sometimes involve rare, severe fetal abnormalities and serious risks to the woman’s health which are not discovered until a 20 week ultrasound. These are often very wanted pregnancies that have gone tragically wrong.
Not every pregnancy goes as a family hopes it will: some end in miscarriage or some create serious complications for a woman’s health.
A pregnant woman experiencing complications that threaten her health or life or the viability of her pregnancy should be able to consider all options. Abortion bans take away that freedom to decide what is best for her family.
Women and doctors- not politicians- should be making personal medical decisions.
Leading medical groups like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and Physicians for Reproductive Health oppose 20 week abortion bans, calling it part of legislative proposals “that are not based on sound science (and that) attempt to prescribe how physicians should care for their patients.”
Local doctors including the Wisconsin sections of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatricsall oppose this abortion ban.
Access to abortion in Wisconsin is extremely limited and heavily restricted.
There are three Planned Parenthood health centers in the state that provide abortion care, and one other private provider in Milwaukee. In Wisconsin, 96% of counties have no abortion provider and 67% of Wisconsin women live in those counties.
Women in Wisconsin face more than a dozen state laws restricting access to abortion. These laws include some of the strictest regulations in the nation.
Abortion bans are dangerous for women’s health and are just another attempt to end women’s access to safe, legal abortion in Wisconsin.
Abortion bans threaten women’s health because they tie doctors' hands in critical, life-threatening situations by making abortion in the second trimester a felony.
This ban is supported by the same political groups and legislators who have worked to eliminate women’s access to cancer screens, birth control, sex education, and abortion.
For nearly 80 years, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin has been providing safe, expert reproductive health care in communities across our state. We’ve seen what happens when people trade women’s health and safety for political gain. But we’ve also seen what is possible when high quality, affordable health care is available and people are trusted to make their own informed decisions.
WOMEN KNOW: ABORTION BANS ARE DANGEROUS
My name is Ginger. I’m a Republican who is a member of a Catholic church, a pro-choice member. I also vote pro-choice, and there are a lot of us Republican women who vote pro-choice, and I’d like to tell lawmakers why. It is a morality issue. Morally, is it right for someone to tell me to risk my life?
In April of 1993, I was married with three young children and expecting my fourth. We were a blue-collar working family, no college degrees, with health insurance, and living on an annual income of $36,000 for a family of five. At about 26 weeks along in the pregnancy, we went to the doctor to learn the sex of the baby- a girl- and we were delighted. The doctor became very quiet. He explained our baby was severely Hydrocephalic and had a cyst growing on the inside of the skull, preventing her brain from growing. He printed off a picture and told us to see a specialist.
We went to see specialists, children’s hospitals, medical colleges. We asked, “Will she know my voice, will she know my touch?” The answer was no.
The responses we heard from the doctors and specialists were: “As soon as she is born, they will put her on machines, pending you make it that far.”
“As soon as she is born, you could hold a flashlight through the back of her head.”
“You’re a high-risk pregnancy, the skull will keep growing, you could end up in cardiac arrest, you will not be able to deliver her vaginally, her head will be too big. To keep you pregnant, we will have to keep you in the hospital.”
My husband and I made the choice to call Planned Parenthood. The providers there told us there were options for our family. We traveled to Wichita, Kansas where we met with Dr. George Tiller and some of the best nursing staff I’ve ever met in my life. It wasn’t just me there. There were three other couples who were patients as well. Catholic women, Presbyterian women, and the doctor himself was a very faithful man. He would sit with us, hold our hands, and pray with us.
My baby’s name was Angel, she would have been 18 years old this year. She was baptized. She has a baby book. Every Christmas her ornament hangs the highest on our family tree. We recognize her birthday. This was our daughter. Our decision. Our family.
I have never been pro-choice or pro-life until I sat in a doctor’s office and was told I didn’t have a choice. Thankfully, the providers at Planned Parenthood gave us Dr. Tiller’s number and my husband and I, with our faith in God, made our decision. It wasn’t anyone else’s place to decide. I bet you are thinking, “Thank God I never had to make that choice.”
I am writing to share my personal story regarding the birth and death of my son Benjamin. With the proposed abortion ban, I believe it is important that lawmakers hear how such legislation may impact women and their families.
In March of 2002, early in the second trimester of my fourth pregnancy, I started to experience bleeding which landed me on bed rest for the remainder of the month. Despite an ultrasound that indicated nothing was wrong and extreme care taken during the month, on March 27, 2002, my water broke early.
At this point, I was toward the end of my 18th week of pregnancy and felt very much connected to my son. He had been kicking me vigorously all month and even my 18 month old daughter understood that a “baby was in mommy’s tummy.”
Unfortunately, when one’s water breaks this early in a pregnancy, both the mother and baby are doomed unless action is taken. Infection that can be fatal to both mother and baby sets in quickly, often within 24 hours. My husband and I were informed that we had the option of placing me in a secure isolation chamber to ward off infection so as to continue the pregnancy, but were also informed that even in the extremely rare case that my body could continue to support the pregnancy, our son had virtually no chance of survival.
Since amniotic fluid is critical for lung development, babies born to women who have prematurely ruptured their membranes (PROM) usually have severe breathing problems and short lives. Live births in PROM cases have only been documented in pregnancies lasting far longer than 18 weeks. In my case, the attending doctor relayed that a live birth was really only “theoretically” possible and that given the risk of infection to me, he would not advise attempting to continue the pregnancy.
Despite our grief at the impending loss of a third pregnancy, especially so late, we came to the conclusion that moving to the isolation chamber was not the best option and that we would let nature take its course. We did not fully understand at the time that letting nature take its course would result in both my and my son’s death. Instead, we had to decide whether or not to actively induce labor or schedule a dilation and extraction procedure (D&E). We were advised to do one or the other quickly so as to avoid the infection that would most certainly come.
Although it was only one day and night, it seemed like after an eternity of consideration, my husband and I decided that we would induce labor. We weighed absolutely everything in this decision, including the impact on my daughter, the potential trauma for our son (who at that point was still kicking strongly), my health and safety, as well as the emotional trauma of a drawn out ordeal. Eventually, even though we knew our chosen option was 1) less “safe” in regard to my own health, 2) more painful for me, 3) required a longer hospital stay, and 4) my son would be stillborn, I wanted a chance to hold my son and say goodbye in person.
Confident in our decision, we informed our doctor. It was then that we found out that despite our thoughtfulness regarding this impossible situation, we would be forced to wait 24 hours to start the process of inducing labor since it constituted a termination of the pregnancy. Despite the facts that the pregnancy was already doomed, potentially lethal infection was approaching, and we viewed waiting as simply added agony in an already impossible situation, the law forced us to wait another day. During the next 24 hours, infection did set in and I was admitted to the hospital with IV antibiotics. Labor was eventually induced and after 32 hours, I delivered my son.
As I’m sure you can imagine this was a very traumatic event in my life. I made decisions during that last week of March 2002 with my husband and in consideration of our family. We felt that despite our strong connection to our unborn son, we needed to make decisions for the future and in the interest of our strong and healthy 18 month old daughter who needed her mother.
It isn’t easy to make a decision to induce labor that you know will result in the death of your baby and it doesn’t come lightly. The insult of being told that despite our careful consideration of all the facts and emotions involved, we needed another 24 hours to think about it still makes my blood pressure rise. The thought that the additional insult of forcing women to hear that their baby might feel pain during a termination is more than I can bear.
Certainly most people will find my story sympathetic. There are those that will argue that the few cases such as mine will be the extreme exception and that it is worth insulting people like me because most late terminations do not occur under such sympathetic circumstances. Others will point out that my case isn’t even relevant since the death of my son occurred prior to the 20th week of pregnancy.
This is my response to such arguments. First is that if my membranes had ruptured one week later, my circumstances and options would have been exactly the same, thus putting women in such situations in a position to be affected by the pending abortion ban.
My second response is much more important. Know that women who make decisions to terminate a pregnancy, especially into the second trimester, do not come to their decision lightly. As practicing Catholics, we actually considered whether or not we should let “nature take its course” and then decided that my life and the need of our daughter to have her mother were more important than betting on a miracle.
We have our son’s framed footprints in our living room and I have saved his hospital blanket along with other mementos from that pregnancy. He has a memorial tree in a national forest and donations are made annually in his name. Benjamin was my son and yet I chose to take a course of action that would prematurely (granted, only by a couple of hours) end his life because it was the best option for my family. Lawmakers, please don’t insult me and other women like me (or unlike me for that matter) by assuming that we don’t already consider absolutely everything, including things you could never even imagine to legislate about, in making such an impossible decision.