When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, Wisconsin immediately reverted to a near-total abortion ban from 173 years ago — a ban with no exceptions for rape and incest.
This meant someone at Planned Parenthood had to tell dozens of Wisconsinites waiting for an abortion their appointments were canceled, effective immediately. One of those people was strategic communications specialist and University of Wisconsin-Madison alumna Lisa Boyce.
“It was pretty devastating to see those people,” Boyce said.
Boyce spoke with The Daily Cardinal about Planned Parenthood's continued role in reproductive care after the overturn of Roe — even though abortions are illegal in Wisconsin.
This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.
When did you decide that you wanted to work for Planned Parenthood?
I was a lobbyist at the time, representing many different clients working for a law firm. I was watching the budget-making process in the Wisconsin Capitol and heard the discussion that they were having at the time over whether or not the University of Wisconsin would add contraceptive coverage to their insurance policy.
I was really taken aback — that was a decision that a bunch of men working in the state legislature were making on behalf of women, and there were no women in the room to help speak to the importance of ensuring contraceptive coverage for women. I made a decision at that point to apply to volunteer for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.
At the time I submitted my application to volunteer, they were also looking to hire, so ultimately, I joined them as a lobbyist. [My role has changed throughout the years, from lobbyist to Vice President of Public Affairs to working at our national office and, now, working in communications.
Where were you and what were you doing when Roe v. Wade was overturned?
I was actually in one of our abortion facilities on the day of the [Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization] decision. We had a camera crew from a national news outlet who was interviewing our doctors to get their opinion about the anticipated decision when the actual decision came down.
I just heard people all of a sudden start saying we have to shut it down. I looked at my email and saw that a decision had been made, and that we had a waiting room full of people that we could no longer provide care to. It was pretty devastating to see these people, many of whom were largely unaware of the fact that they were going to lose access to the care that they had either traveled long distances to receive or certainly had been spending a lot of time contemplating and thinking about on that day. As a communication person, I just knew I had to get in place to pivot and address media questions so the public and patients knew the status of care within our affiliate.
What is Planned Parenthood doing now that abortions can no longer be performed?
A lot of people have mistakenly thought that, with the fall of Roe, our services are no longer available. That couldn't be further from the truth. In this moment, it's more important than ever that people understand what their healthcare resources and options are, and Planned Parenthood's doors are open in 22 locations around the state.
Even people who are interested in seeking information and access to abortion can come to us — it is not a crime for people to pursue information about their medical options and to receive referrals for care outside of the state.
At Planned Parenthood, most of our services revolve around birth control, counseling and prescription services from all of the FDA-approved medications used to prevent pregnancy — whether long-acting reversible methods of birth control or something short term. If you've had an accident and a condom is broken, we also will provide emergency contraception for women to help prevent pregnancy. We also provide cancer screenings for women.
We do annual cervical exams on women, and if we find anything irregular, we can also do follow-up care on women to determine if they have a precancerous or cancerous situation they need immediate care for. We provide leap services, which is an evaluation of something that has been found on your cervical cancer evaluation. If that leap process determines that you need additional services, we also provide colposcopy services that remove potentially cancerous cells from the cervix.
We also provide things like sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment. We also provide HIV testing and care referrals, gender-affirming hormone therapy for people who are over 18 and miscarriage services for women who feel that they're having a pregnancy complication. We also provide support for men who are interested in information about their reproductive care.
We're just a general resource for people, many of whom don't have a regular health care provider. [We’re] a gateway to a lot of other services.
What would your words of advice be to women who are suffering as a result of this law in Wisconsin?
Our advice to women who fear they may have an unplanned pregnancy is we are here to help. Our doors are open. And we, just like before the fall of Roe, are a safe place for people to come [and] understand what their options are. If they determine they would like to terminate a pregnancy, we will help them get access to the care that they need. We can [also] help them determine how far along a pregnancy is so they know what their options are.
We can also help people make appointments for care. Some people are very overwhelmed in the moment, and so we have patient navigators who can help women determine where they would like to go. If financial resources are a barrier for them, we can help with transportation [or] the cost of care. We should be a person's first stop if they have any questions or concerns about a pregnancy.
There seems to be an unfortunate stigma that Planned Parenthood is a “bad place” where abortions are performed. What do you have to say to people that have this idea about Planned Parenthood?
I would say that everybody knows someone who has been impacted by Planned Parenthood in their life. One in four people have come to Planned Parenthood at some point in their lives for medical care, and oftentimes people don't know that until they start talking about Planned Parenthood with others. Talking with people about their positive experiences they've had with Planned Parenthood or talking with people about a moment in their life when Planned Parenthood was there for them is really helpful for reducing the stigma that is out there.
Birth control is something that [many people will] have to rely on at some point in our lives, either for pregnancy prevention or for a full range of other issues. Maybe you're going on an acne medication where you cannot get pregnant, so when you're on that acne medication, you need to be on birth control. Birth control and reproductive health touch everybody.
Planned Parenthood has been fortunate to be there for women for 90 years in the state of Wisconsin, and as a result of that, we have a lot of people who have a lot of trust and faith in us. We hope that we can continue to be there for the community for those same reasons.