The shortage of ob-gyns in Wisconsin could be worsened by a Republican bill to block University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty from training medical residents how to perform abortions, according to an Associated Press report.
The bill, introduced in April by state representative André Jacque, would prohibit UW-Madison doctors from performing abortions anywhere other than a hospital, which would effectively ban faculty from training residents in abortion procedures because of convoluted state laws. "I'm trying to get UW out of the abortion business," Jacque told the AP. "I'm on pretty firm ground here."
That "abortion business" Jacque misleadingly refers to is how the UW School of Medicine (along with Aurora Health Care and the Medical College of Wisconsin) handle abortions and abortion training. State law blocks the use of taxpayer dollars for abortions outside the cases of rape, incest, or when the mother's health or life is at risk. UW-Madison's medical school gets state funding so it has an agreement with Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin in which PP pays UW physicians to perform abortions and train ob-gyn residents at its Madison clinic.
But medical schools are required to offer abortion training in order to obtain and maintain accreditation in obstetrics and gynecology, per the national Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. (If residents have moral or religious objections to the training, they can opt out.) Since the bill would bar doctors from performing abortions outside of hospitals, UW would no longer be able to instruct residents in abortion at the Planned Parenthood clinic and could lose its accreditation.
While a spokesperson for the ACGME declined to provide a comment to the AP regarding whether they've ever revoked a school's accreditation for not providing abortion training, Robert Golden, dean of UW-Madison's medical school, says both the school and the state will suffer as a result of the bill. "This simple act will clearly lead to the loss of accreditation, but the damage will go far beyond the residency program," Golden told the AP. Faculty members could also leave the state in order to teach at accredited schools, and that's to say nothing of the bill's effects on women seeking abortions in the state.
The bill could also cause Wisconsin to lose even more ob-gyns—20 of the state's 72 counties already lack an ob-gyn, the AP reports. Because the proposed bill prohibits any abortion procedures outside of a hospital—and because university hospitals are funded by government dollars—UW-Madison medical residents wouldn't be able to receive the training required to be a certified ob-gyn, forcing them to join residency programs in other states. "Nobody would choose to come here," Golden said.
Jacque doesn't agree, saying he doubts the school would lose accreditation over the bill. He cited the University of Arizona, which is still an accredited medical institution, despite a similar Arizona law passed in 2011 that prevents public and tuition dollars from being used on abortion training. He told the AP that medical residents could still get abortion training on their own time (because they have so much of it) and that UW doctors who want to perform abortions could take a second job at Planned Parenthood.
The state's Assembly Committee on Science and Technology is set to hear the bill on Tuesday in a public hearing. Eleven groups—including Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health, and the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault—have registered in opposition to the bill, while Pro-Life Wisconsin and Wisconsin Right to Life are in support.
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