GOP bill could worsen physician shortage, opponents argue

A GOP bill that would prohibit certain UW-Madison medical students from getting trained by Planned Parenthood to conduct abortions could worsen the state’s physician shortage, opponents argued at a recent hearing.

That’s because, they said, UW’s obstetrics and gynecology department could lose its accreditation and the ban would dissuade OB-GYN students from coming to Wisconsin.

But bill author Rep. André Jacque argued the arrangement between UW and Planned Parenthood violates state law prohibiting taxpayers funds from going toward abortions.

Under the agreement, UW faculty physicians train OB-GYN residents, who are employed through the hospital, in family planning at Planned Parenthood’s Madison clinic. Abortion training is available to those residents during the Planned Parenthood rotation. UW then bills Planned Parenthood for the hours those physicians spent, and the group then reimburses UW for the cost. All hospital residents, regardless of specialty or whether they take part in the Planned Parenthood rotation, receive a set stipend for their time. The resident stipends are reimbursed by a private health care system.

Jacque, R-De Pere, said his bill would add a “crystal clear prohibition” against the UW-Planned Parenthood arrangement.

He said the agreement leads to UW “propping up” Planned Parenthood by “having state employees, within the scope of their state employment, paid by state taxpayers, and with state benefits, perform abortions, participate in abortion procedures and train to be abortionists.”

Jacque, R-De Pere, likened the arrangement to paying “state employees to run a strip joint on state time” with someone else reimbursing the state for their salary.

But UW officials, gynecologists and others argued the arrangement is necessary.

Without it, said UW-Madison med school dean Robert Golden, the school could lose accreditation for its OB-GYN training through the national Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

“There’s no opt out provision for a training program,” he said. “We are ultimately responsible as a faculty to guarantee that all accreditation requirements are met, including the availability of getting the abortion service training.”

Others argued that without such training, female patients who see complications with their pregnancies could ultimately suffer.

Kristin Lyerly, a gynecologist at Bellin Health, said most OB-GYN physicians in the state won’t “provide elective abortion services as part of their regular medical practice,” although she noted medical conditions and emergencies related to pregnancy do happen. Comprehensive training, she said, would allow physicians to apply the “most appropriate” and “best care possible.”

But Dr. Cynthia Jones-Nosacek, at Columbia St Mary’s, argued that having OB-GYN residents trained at the Madison Planned Parenthood clinic wasn’t vital, as following their residency they’ll “rarely” have to perform abortions.

“It has the purpose of desensitizing residents to the deliberate and violent taking of human life,” she said, as she described the process of performing an abortion.

Pro-Life Wisconsin’s Matt Sande agreed, testifying that “these residents need to be taught how to preserve and protect life.”

–Briana Reilly