What would a Wisconsin free from severe restrictions on women’s healthcare choices look like?

What would a Wisconsin free from severe restrictions on women’s healthcare choices look like?

By Pat Kreitlow

November 3, 2023

Democrats introduce a package of bills to remove abortion care limits imposed by Republicans and force all health providers to be up-front about medically accurate options.

After 12 years of Republican control of the Legislature, it may be difficult to envision a Wisconsin without some of the tightest restrictions on women’s reproductive healthcare rights—but Democratic lawmakers have introduced a package of bills designed to show a future where abortion care is returned to being the private business of a patient and her physician.

“It’s so important to remember that everyone deserves to feel safe when they are accessing health care,” said Rep. Francesca Hong (D-Madison). “And right now, for those seeking abortion care, that is not the reality.”

Hong and Sen. Kelda Roys (D-Madison) held a news conference to unveil details of the Reproductive Freedom Act, a set of proposals to eliminate government interference and penalize deception from purported healthcare providers who pose as pregnancy counselors.

“One would restore the power of individuals to make their own health care choices,” Hong said on UpNorthNews Radio. “The other one is called the ‘Stop Publicly Funded Coercion Act,’ to ensure that ‘pregnancy crisis centers’ and health care centers are obligated to provide medically accurate information and all options to their patients.” 

The bills are designed to serve as a reminder that Wisconsin still has sharp restrictions on the books about abortion and few restrictions on how women can be given inaccurate or incomplete information about their choices for pregnancy care. A Dane County judge determined over the summer that an 1849 statute does not constitute an abortion ban, a ruling that prompted Planned Parenthood to resume providing abortion care at clinics in Madison and Milwaukee as well as medication abortion

“[But] even with abortion services resuming at Planned Parenthood health centers in Wisconsin, the barriers still exist—restrictions, geographic limitations, cost barriers. And we continue to work to overcome those to provide healthcare,” said Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin Chief Strategy Officer Michelle Velasquez.

Republicans, meanwhile, have taken new steps to support the controversial crisis pregnancy centers by passing a bill to give $1 million a year in taxpayer funds to a group that would support the centers. The bill faces a likely veto from Gov. Tony Evers.

Republican state legislators are stooping to a new low in their crusade to put themselves in charge of constituents’ personal medical and healthcare decisions,” said Lucy Ripp of A Better Wisconsin Together about the bill. “[The bill] not only would allow state legislators a continued seat in our exam rooms [but] would also allow anti-abortion extremists to target pregnant people with pseudo-medical advice and dangerous misinformation.”

Abortions Up Since Dobbs Decision

Elective abortions in Wisconsin sank to zero last year after conservative justices on the US Supreme Court ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to repeal the rights guaranteed by 1973’s Roe v. Wade. But while Wisconsin and 20 other states used Dobbs as grounds to impose bans or limits, the total number of abortions in the US actually rose slightly in the year since the ruling, according to counts done by two different groups.

“Banning abortion does not mean that abortions don’t happen,” said Velasquez. “The aggregate number of abortions in the We Count data shows that. The Dobbs decision created a patchwork of states where legal abortion was available and providers and communities continue to work together in a coordinated way to ensure that people can receive healthcare.” 

“Abortion bans don’t stop abortions,” said obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Kristin Lyerly. “Abortion bans just make it harder for people to get abortions, which disproportionately affects people who are already struggling to access health care, many of whom live in rural and economically disadvantaged communities.”

“Because I have the privilege of sitting in an exam room with my patients, hearing their confidential stories and helping them find solutions to their most intimate, troubling problems, this data doesn’t surprise me at all,” Lyerly said. “In fact, I suspect that the numbers are much higher, as many women have sought online abortion care and, in some cases, services in other countries. If people are serious about wanting to do something about the number of unplanned pregnancies in the US, they should focus on making sure that all people have access to quality, affordable health care, including full scope reproductive care and contraception. Political interference in our personal health care decisions prevents us from receiving the individualized care that we all need and deserve.”


  • Pat Kreitlow

    The Founding Editor of UpNorthNews, Pat was a familiar presence on radio and TV stations in western Wisconsin before serving in the state Legislature. After a brief stint living in the Caribbean, Pat and wife returned to Chippewa Falls to be closer to their growing group of grandchildren. He now serves as UNN's chief political correspondent and host of UpNorthNews Radio, airing weekday mornings 6 a.m.-8 a.m on the Civic Media radio network and the UpNorthNews Facebook page.

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