Healthcare workers advocate for reproductive freedom in Wisconsin

  • Post Author
    by News director
  • Post Date
    Sun Nov 06 2022

How nurses and doctors are reacting to the overturning of Roe V. Wade

By: Lexi Spevacek

Healthcare providers speak at the capitol for reproductive freedom / Photo from SEIU Healthcare Facebook page

Healthcare workers across Wisconsin are expressing their frustration with the state's abortion policy and the Republican candidates that seek to enforce it. Many doctors and nurses are calling on Wisconsin residents to vote in favor of candidates that will protect abortion rights and allow healthcare professionals to provide what they feel is the best care.

When Roe v. Wade was overturned in June of 2022, a Wisconsin law from 1849 that bans abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest went back into effect. Healthcare providers, medical students, elected officials and concerned members of the community held a march on October 27 that started at the State Capitol and ended at the headquarters of the Wisconsin Republican Party. 

Kate Walton is a nurse of 15 years at a local hospital and an advocate for reproductive health rights. Walton feels like healthcare workers' voices have not been centered enough in conversations regarding reproductive care laws. 

“There's a huge amount of ignorance about how medicine and how healthcare works and what my job is as a healthcare provider,” Walton said. “It's infuriating for lawmakers to think that they can come in and legislate what we do and don't do, especially when they refuse to listen to anybody who actually does the work.”

Wisconsin's abortion law puts pressure on doctors who want to help their patients make the decision that's best for them, but fear the legal repercussions of doing so. Walton even had a hard time getting doctors to speak at the march– not due to lack of interest, but because of worries about the response their employers would have.

A press release from SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin stated, “the exception to save the life of the mother is so unclear that many doctors are very hesitant to perform the procedure for fear of being charged with a felony.”

Some medical students are considering leaving Wisconsin for their residencies because they wouldn't be able to provide the full reproductive care they would like to with Wisconsin's abortion laws in place; potentially exacerbating an already existing healthcare workforce shortage, especially in rural communities.

The biggest thing Walton said Wisconsin residents can do to help is vote on November 8.

“Right now I think we have a very clear choice between a governor and an attorney general who will fight to protect abortion rights in Wisconsin, and that's Tony Evers and Josh Kaul,” Walton said, “and a governor candidate who will do everything he can to outlaw abortion and outlaw healthcare, essentially.” 

Republican candidate for governor Tim Michels has stated that the 1849 law reflects his own stance on abortion, though recently Michels said he would sign a bill that includes exceptions for rape and incest. Evers and Kaul filed a lawsuit challenging the abortion ban in June.

Walton described abortion as healthcare in the same way organ donation works. They can't force someone to donate an organ even if it would save another patient's life, and they believe the same should be true for pregnancies.

“What I want to see is a world where we can provide informed consensual care with people,” Walton said, “and we can work with our patients to provide the care that they need and to help them make the best decision for them.”