State News

Students call upon lawmakers to kill bill that would end agreement between Planned Parenthood, UW

Students on campus held a call-in Friday to encourage Republican lawmakers to vote against a bill that would end a partnership between UW and Planned Parenthood.

Image By: Leah Voskuil

Student activists organized Friday in opposition to a controversial Republican bill that would prohibit UW medical students from performing abortions or receive training at medical centers that do so.

The proposal would end a decade-long partnership between the university and Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion-related training and work opportunities to medical students.

The state Senate heard testimony on the legislation Tuesday, months after a state Assembly committee considered a nearly identical measure. Both chambers could vote on the bill in the coming weeks, though its likelihood of passage is unclear as Republican leaders have remained largely silent on the subject.

Proponents of the bill say the state should not be funding abortions and elective abortions are not necessary for OB-GYN training.

“UW [Health Care Administration] has continued using [state] funds to pay residents to go to Planned Parenthood in Madison and perform abortions,” bill author state Rep. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, told the Assembly Committee on Science and Technology in July. “There is no comparable public relationship anywhere else in the country.”

University officials and students have raised concern over the bill’s impact on the university’s OB-GYN program accreditation, which relies on students’ training and experience in reproductive and women's health services.

Alan Kaplan, CEO of UW Health, condemned the proposal in a letter to state legislators, calling it a direct threat “to shut down our capacity to train future OB-GYN physicians.”

Critics fear this could cause students seeking a comprehensive medical education to go elsewhere, hampering the state’s need for a steady supply of health specialists.

“There’s already a huge shortage of healthcare professionals in the state,” said Jordan Madden, co-founder and president of the Accessible Reproductive Healthcare Initiative on campus. “We need a lot more cooperation between our educational institutions and our legislature to meet that need.”

Capitalizing on the bill’s uncertain future, students have taken action to pressure their legislators to come out in opposition to it.

“We have several meetings organized with Republican representatives who have yet to cosponsor the legislation coming up,” Madden said, hoping to sway undecided legislators to vote against the measure.

The Student Coalition for Progress, in tandem with other student groups, organized a call-in Friday encouraging students to contact Republican state senators and representatives who may oppose the bill.

State Sens. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, and Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point, were the primary targets of the call-in, as organizers felt they were the most likely to be swayed by public pressure.

Some students fear that beyond program accreditation, access to women’s healthcare in Wisconsin is at stake as well.

“This bill is just a terrible idea,” Madden said. “It hurts doctors and people trying to be trained in obstetrics and gynecology, not even specifically abortion. My biggest concern is trying to safeguard the future of access to obstetrics and gynecology in Wisconsin.”

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