Wisconsin Republicans have launched their biggest attack on women’s reproductive freedom yet. Scott Walker is poised to sign one of the most extreme 20-week abortion bans in the country. As a young woman, I’m terrified of this bill’s implications. This 20-week abortion ban places appalling restrictions on women’s bodies and even puts lives at risk.
Any attempt by lawmakers to control women’s health care options is already insulting — but this bill elevates that insult to dangerous levels. In a medical emergency after 20 weeks, the bill requires a doctor to attempt to save both the woman and the fetus. To do so, doctors would have to use a fetal heart monitor to check on the fetus’s condition, forcing the woman to give birth via cesarean section. At 20 weeks, a C-section can cause significant bodily harm. In fact, according to Dr. Kathy Hartke, chairwoman of the Wisconsin section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, this means "basically filleting the uterus open" and “tremendously” increases the likelihood of uterine rupture during the woman’s next pregnancy.
The bill’s lack of support from the medical community is a testament to the health risks it poses for Wisconsin women. Four major health care organizations, including the Wisconsin Medical Society and the Wisconsin section of American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have taken a stance against this bill. Medical professionals realize reproductive health care decisions should be between a woman and her doctor without interference from politicians. Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, and others who support this bill have no medical background and fail to recognize the medical community’s opposition to this bill. By turning a blind eye to the opinions of doctors on what is solely a medical matter, Republicans have shown that they care more about advancing their own political agenda than ensuring quality health care for Wisconsin women.
The bill also doesn’t include an exemption that would allow for victims of rape or incest to be able to choose to terminate their pregnancies past the 20-week deadline. Although Gov. Scott Walker disagrees, concerns about pregnancies from rape can last far beyond “the initial months.” It is not the place of a politicians to tell victims of rape and incest when they can be worried about the extremely complicated and confusing circumstances they have been presented with. Victims of these awful circumstances do not need an already-traumatic situation being made even worse by their state government. Equally appalling is the provision that allows a man who gets a woman pregnant to sue the medical professional that terminates the pregnancy. This is both an insult to the women making this choice and to the doctors who perform these procedures as a part of their profession.
Women are more than their reproductive organs, and are responsible and knowledgeable enough to make decisions about their own reproductive health. A 20-week abortion ban has no medical rationalization, puts women in danger, and shows a blatant disrespect for women and their ability to make their own health care choices. Wisconsin women deserve improved health care coverage and equal pay for equal work — not another dangerous attack on our reproductive freedom.
Kellie Carroll is director of the College Democrats of Wisconsin Women's Caucus.