OBGYN says legal uncertainty will prevent providers from following Planned Parenthood in resuming abortions

"To be very clear, I don't think that other healthcare providers in the state will feel comfortable providing any sort of abortion care until we have a final judgement,” she said.
Planned Parenthood in Sheboygan .jpeg
Posted at 9:28 AM, Sep 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-19 10:28:11-04

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin resumed abortion services Monday at its Madison and Milwaukee clinics.

The question on many people’s minds now is whether other healthcare providers in the state plan to follow Planned Parenthood’s lead.

Several doctors tell TMJ4 that hospital and healthcare systems across the state halted all abortion procedures when Roe v. Wade was struck down. Those doctors say they do not think that will change just because Planned Parenthood is resuming abortions.

"I am thrilled that as of today, women have access in Milwaukee and Madison,” said Dr. Kristin Lyerly.

Dr. Lyerly of Wisconsin spoke with TMJ4 from Arizona where she currently works as a traveling gynecologist.

"I want nothing more than to go back to work in Sheboygan, I loved taking care of my patients in Sheboygan,” she said.

As someone who used to provide abortions at Sheboygan’s Planned Parenthood, Dr. Lyerly says she knows the struggles OBGYNs have faced in Wisconsin during the past 16 months.

“Many abortions are performed in other hospitals in other settings,” she said. “Often, these are more medically indicated for high-risk pregnancies, for miscarriages, for other reasons and these are the people who right now we're most concerned about because they still are living with this uncertainty about whether they will be threatened with this criminal prosecution just for taking care of their patients.”

Dr. Lyerly says hospitals and healthcare systems across the state have had to arrange for pregnant patients who are facing complications to get abortion care elsewhere.

The 1849 abortion ban, which is currently at the center of two lawsuits, prohibits abortions unless it’s deemed necessary by two physicians to save the mother’s life.

"Well that's the tricky situation, isn't it? Like, when is a mother's life at risk? I know because I am a doctor who has trained for many many years and has many years of experience, but would the district attorney who has no medical experience and is politically motivated agree that I chose the right time to perform that abortion? It's a gray area,” Dr. Lyerly said.

Since Wisconsin abortions came to a halt in June of 2022, the Associated Press reports about 300 Wisconsin women have gone to Illinois each month for abortion care.

"For those people who are really are dedicated to helping their patients get what they need, they're on the phone to us,” said Rockford Family Planning clinic administrator Meg Larkin.

A Madison doctor opened Rockford Family Planning at the beginning of the year to offer care for Wisconsin women right across the state line. Meg says the clinic has provided around 550 abortions.

“We would say a good 45 percent come from Wisconsin,” she said.

Dr. Lyerly does not believe other healthcare facilities will resume abortions like Planned Parenthood until this plays out in the legal system.

"To be very clear, I don't think that other healthcare providers in the state will feel comfortable providing any sort of abortion care until we have a final judgment,” she said. “I am not personally comfortable."

TMJ4 reached out to all the major healthcare systems in the Milwaukee area to ask whether they plan to resume offering abortions for patients who are facing health risks given the Planned Parenthood development. The only provider we heard back from was Froedtert Hospital, which said in a statement:

“We continue to analyze the Supreme Court decision, which creates some uncertainty in Wisconsin. As always, our top priorities are to provide the best, safest, most appropriate care to our patients within the bounds of the law and to protect the sanctity of the relationship between health care providers and patients."