Waukeshia County, Wisconsin, is known for having the lowest abortion rate in the state, at around 1.3 per 1,000 women.
However, it has a new abortion restriction that’s made headlines: the county’s mandatory ultrasound requirement.
And now, it’s time to ask how those restrictions are affecting women and their health.
“The way the ultrasound requirements are written, you can’t have an abortion in Wisconsin if you don’t have a state-issued license,” said Laura Schoenfeld, director of the ACLU of Wisconsin.
“That’s a huge loophole.
And it has to be fixed.”
Schoenfeld’s group recently released a study that analyzed Wisconsin’s mandatory abortion regulations, and it found that Wisconsin has the lowest rate of abortions in the country.
The study also found that the Wisconsin legislature passed a bill in March that increased the minimum age for getting an abortion from 20 to 24 years old, and that this change led to an increase in abortions in counties like Waukegan.
Schoenfield said that the ultrasound requirement is particularly problematic for women who are already having complications.
“If they’ve had a pre-existing medical condition that would be covered under the state’s family planning plan,” Schoenfield told Ars.
“But if they’re not, and they’ve got a very serious condition, it makes them much more vulnerable to complications.”
“It’s an absolute problem,” she added.
“A lot of the women who we’ve talked to are very afraid of having a complication because they know they can’t get an abortion,” Schoeff said.
“If the ultrasound was up to the standards that it is in the other states, it would probably be fine.”
Wisconsin’s ultrasound law was originally introduced in the fall of 2015, but Schoenflds group says the bill was only brought up for a vote in December 2016, when legislators made it even stricter.
“There was no discussion whatsoever of what the ultrasound would look like, and so the Legislature put the ultrasound issue at the forefront,” Schoenefeld said.
Schoeneff says that Wisconsin’s ultrasound requirement will be the focus of a hearing on the bill, which is currently before the legislature’s Joint Committee on Government Operations.
The hearing is scheduled for Monday, January 12, at 10:30 a.m. at the statehouse.
The bill will then go to a vote.
The legislation also creates a new bill, the Women’s Health Insurance Act, that will allow women to purchase a health insurance policy that covers abortion services if they are over 18 years old.
The new bill is still being debated, but there’s little doubt that it’s going to be more restrictive than the ultrasound law.
“Women have access to a variety of preventive services and are already protected from pre-abortion procedures,” Schuenfeld said, “so if this bill were to pass, I think it would have a chilling effect on women who want to have an early abortion.”