MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Planned Parenthood announced Monday that it would be forced to close its abortion facility in Appleton if state lawmakers approve a proposal that places new requirements on doctors who perform the procedure.
The legislation sponsored by Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, would require that physicians have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where the abortion would be performed.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin's Public Policy Director Nicole Safar told The Associated Press that mandate would force the organization to close its Appleton facility because physicians performing abortions there can't meet that requirement.
That means women from Appleton and rural areas seeking abortions would have to travel hours to Planned Parenthood's other facilities in Madison and Milwaukee, where more physicians with admitting privileges at nearby hospitals are available, Safar said.
Barbara Lyons, executive director of anti-abortion group Wisconsin Right to Life, praised the provision. She said it would ensure women can get timely hospital treatment if there are complications during the abortion procedure.
Planned Parenthood's announcement came months after the organization announced plans in February to close four of its 27 clinics in Wisconsin as the Legislature eliminated $1 million in state funding for the group in the last budget. Planned Parenthood said the closures would affect services such as cancer screenings, breast exams, birth control, STD testing and treatment, and HIV screening provided to 2,000 patients.
Lazich's proposal also would require that physicians perform or arrange for ultrasounds for women seeking abortions, except in a medical emergency or cases where the pregnancy is caused by sexual assault or incest. Physicians would have to show the ultrasound image to the woman and provide a thorough description of the fetus' features.
Twenty-one states already have ultrasound requirements for abortion providers, although the requirements vary, according to the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
Twelve other states require women to receive counseling or written information about ultrasounds.
Critics warned lawmakers during last week's heated Assembly and Senate committee hearings the ultrasound mandate would interfere in physicians' relationships with patients, while supporters said ultrasounds help women make informed decisions.
Mark Grapentine, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Medical Society, said although ultrasounds are a common medical procedure that gives women full information about their pregnancy, they might not be the only practice available in the future and therefore shouldn't be specifically mandated by law.
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed the legislation 3-2 after adopting an amendment that women wouldn't have to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound if an abdominal ultrasound doesn't successfully provide the fetus' heartbeat.
The full Senate is expected to take up the bill on Tuesday, a week after it was introduced and publicly debated. A companion bill, sponsored by Rep. Pat Strachota, R-West Bend, is also being considered in the Assembly and could be taken up Thursday.
The development came after recent debates over other Republican-backed bills that would keep certain religious organizations and employers from having to provide health insurance coverage for contraceptives, prohibit the use of public money to pay for abortion coverage in public employees' health insurance plans, and ban abortion for gender selection.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he didn't think the abortion legislation was moving too quickly in the Legislature.
"These are issues that have been out there for quite some time," Vos said. "They're not speeding through without opportunity for public discussion. ... I think most of these are common sense issues."