MADISON, Wisconsin — An arrangement that allows University of Wisconsin medical school faculty to serve as Planned Parenthood abortionists on state time is “clearly illegal” under existing law, a Wisconsin state senator said, while he proposed new legislation to strictly ban the practice.
Sen. André Jacque, a Republican from De Pere, said he drafted Senate Bill 260 because the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health continues to have faculty perform abortions at Planned Parenthood as a way to train medical residents in the procedure. This despite a 2011 state law Jacque said already prohibits state funds from being used for the performance of abortions.
“Surveys have showed by an overwhelming margin that the public does not want to see taxpayer dollars used to subsidize abortions or abortion providers,” Jacque said at a public hearing before the Senate Committee on Human Services, Children and Families. “The UW seeks to continue propping up Planned Parenthood and Madison’s abortion facility by having state employees on state time within the scope of their state employment, paid by state taxpayers, with state benefits, perform abortions, participate in abortion procedures and train to be abortionists.”
Planned Parenthood operates an abortion facility on Madison’s east side. University faculty perform abortions at the clinic as part of training for medical residents in obstetrics and gynecology. At one time, Jacque said, a UW medical school faculty member served as Planned Parenthood’s medical director while on state time.
“Under several memoranda of understanding between the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, UW-Madison and Planned Parenthood, several full-time UW employees have had thousands of their hours of state service purchased by Planned Parenthood to perform abortions at Planned Parenthood facilities during which time they contractually remained UW employees,” Jacque said, “with state salary, benefits and malpractice insurance, all clearly spelled out under contract, though directly responsible to and under the authority of Planned Parenthood.”
The university testified that the abortion training program is required to maintain accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). The council is a private Chicago-based organization that sets standards for medical residency and fellowship programs. The UW Medical School is among 865 institutions accredited by ACGME. The OB/GYN residency program is among 12,000 accredited residency and fellowship programs in 182 specialties. The dean of the medical school said state funds are not used for abortion training, and the bill would put the university’s OB/GYN program at risk.
“The legislation before you is a serious threat to the future of our OB/GYN residency training program,” said Dr. Robert N. Golden, who also serves as chairman of the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority, which operates a nationally renown health system with seven hospitals and 21,000 employees. Failure to comply with training standards “would lead quickly to a citation, and then, if not reversed, to the loss of accreditation,” Golden said.
To remain accredited, Golden said, the university is “required to provide the abortion training as an optional component of our planned curriculum.” Residents with moral or religious objections to abortion training are able to opt out, he said. The stipends paid to residents for their abortion training are not paid from state funds, and medical school faculty’s time and cost of liability insurance are paid by Planned Parenthood, Golden said.
Wisconsin’s ongoing shortage of obstetricians and gynecologists will get worse if the Senate bill becomes law, Golden said. Twenty-nine of the state’s 72 counties have only one OB/GYN doctor, or none, he said, citing American Medical Association data. The university operates a rural OB/GYN residency program, the first of its kind in the United States, and has expanded the number of slots for OB/GYN residents.
“The passage of this bill will dramatically damage, perhaps eliminate, the applicant pool for our residency programs,” Golden said, “since applicants and their advisers will be aware of the likelihood of a citation as the initial step towards loss of accreditation.” He said abortion training is not required for medical school students, only graduate residents in the OB/GYN program.
Under the terms of SB-260, employees of the University of Wisconsin System (which operates 13 public universities across 26 campuses) and the UW Hospitals and Clinics Authority would be prohibited from performing or assisting in abortions as part of the scope of their employment. They would also be prohibited from providing or receiving abortion training. The UW hospitals authority would be banned from providing liability protection for employees performing abortions. The bill explicitly bans the kind of contract between Planned Parenthood and the university. Current Wisconsin law prohibits funds from state government, some local governments and the UW Hospitals and Clinics Authority from being used for performance of abortions, unless the abortion is directly and medically necessary to save the mother’s life, there is risk of grave physical damage to the mother, or in circumstances of sexual assault or incest.
Matt Sande, director of legislation for Pro-Life Wisconsin, said the UW-Planned Parenthood abortion contract is a “grisly arrangement that stains the reputation of Wisconsin’s public university system and flagship hospital.” Pro-Life Wisconsin discovered through an open-records request that between 2007 and 2010, more than $58,000 of UW Hospitals and Clinics Authority funds had been used for abortion training at Planned Parenthood’s Madison abortion clinic, Sande said. Medical residents were paid for two four-week rotations, viewing and performing abortions under the supervision of UW faculty, he said.
Sande said the 2011 Wisconsin state budget specifically included UW Hospitals as a state agency, a measure designed to stop the abortion and training arrangement. In 2012, the university signed another agreement with Planned Parenthood, with the abortion giant paying funds back to UW for faculty and resident abortion services, he said.
“Regardless of who is paying for these abortions, this contractual relationship should be completely severed,” Sande said. The bill “finally and fully ends the scandal of Wisconsin’s public employees doing Planned Parenthood’s dirty work.”
Planned Parenthood pays the university $150 an hour for these abortion services, 16-20 hours per week, he said. “University of Wisconsin faculty members should not be spending their paid time providing abortions or any services at private abortion facilities,” Sande said. “Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin should not be an abortion training ground for UW medical residents. These residents need to be instructed to have to save, preserve and respect life, not how to kill preborn children at our state’s No. 1 abortion provider.”
Barbara Sella, associate director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, the lobbying arm of Wisconsin’s five bishops, said the contract in place means the UW and Planned Parenthood are jointly running an abortion center. “Without UW’s doctors, Planned Parenthood would not be able to perform abortions,” Sella said. “At a minimum, it seems to us, that public authorities should not be facilitating the unjust taking of human life. As the leading medical research and teaching institution, it should be called to solve problems in ways that uphold human dignity and protect human life.”
Dr. James Linn, an associate clinical professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin and a board member of the Milwaukee Guild of the Catholic Medical Association, said 86 percent of OB/GYN doctors don’t perform abortions. The American Board of Obstetrics & Gynecology, which certifies doctors as qualified specialists, thinks that doing elective abortions is not an essential part of OB/GYN training and practice,” Linn said. “No OB/GYN resident in the United States is required to do any elective abortions to graduate from his or her residency. This is evidence that abortions are not an essential part of OB/GYN training.”
Linn, who has been board certified in obstetrics and gynecology for more than 30 years, rejected the idea that the UW’s residency program would lose its accreditation as a result of the bill. A 2018 survey of all accredited OB/GYN programs found that 36 percent were not in compliance with the abortion training mandate. “Sixty-eight of the 190 responding program directors admitted they were not complying with the abortion training mandate,” Linn said. “Did any of these programs lose their accreditation since this study was published? I haven’t heard about any.”
Linn said the 1996 federal Coates/Snow amendment to the Public Health Service Act passed by Congress would prevent programs from losing certification because they would not provide abortion training. “This amendment, federal law, protects students, residents and institutions from being forced to participate in abortion,” Linn said. “…This federal law also prohibits accrediting bodies such as ACGME from denying accreditation to a residency that does not provide abortion training.”
The Senate committee took no immediate action on the bill, although a vote could happen in the near future on whether to forward SB-260 to the full Republican-controlled Wisconsin Senate for debate.
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