||Pro-lifers rally outside the Madison Surgery Center at 1 S. Park St. in Madison in February. (CH file photo)
MADISON -- Despite news that the plans were dropped for the Madison Surgery Center (MSC) to begin offering late-term abortions, questions remain after a statement from UW Health was released May 5. The statement said that the organization remains committed to including late-term abortion among its reproductive health services.
Pro-life groups, however, have seen this recent development as positive. They hope the decision not to perform abortions at the Madison Surgery Center indicates that the second-trimester abortion services would not be offered in Madison.
"The leadership of the Madison Surgery Center is to be commended, if reports from the State of Wisconsin and local media outlets are true," the Diocese of Madison wrote in a press release May 6. "Whether the decision to forego destroying innocent lives, through late-term abortions, was made by examining their own consciences, whether it is because people of good will in the community (including MSC staff members) persistently and peacefully voiced their objections, or whether it is a product of prayer, this is the right decision.
"We join the others in the community, both of faith and of no faith, in saying thank you," the statement continued. "It is through our reason that we know that each child in their mother's womb is a unique person with equal dignity to you and me, and it is through our faith that we know that they are created in the image and likeness of God."
In February 2009, the MSC board voted unanimously to approve a plan to begin second-trimester abortions at the location at 1 S. Park St. MSC is joint partnership of University of Wisconsin Medical Foundation, University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, and Meriter Hospital.
After the discovery of the plan in January 2009 by Michigan-based Alliance Defense Fund, pro-life groups rallied to protest the move. Large gatherings and protest marches, a persistent presence outside the site, a 40 Days for Life vigil, and a Stations of the Cross prayer gathering took place throughout the following year.
On May 5, Pro-Life Wisconsin released a letter from the office of the Attorney General of Wisconsin indicating that the plans had been dropped. According to the letter, written by Assistant Attorney General Kevin Potter to an attorney from Eau Claire, "it is my understanding based on recent information from the UW that they have now abandoned plans to provide late-term abortion services at MSC."
The news of plans being dropped came as no surprise to local pro-life groups, who have closely watched the continued delay for abortions to be offered. Despite approval of the plan in 2009, in February 2010 reports were confirmed by a UWHC spokesperson that no abortions had yet occurred at the site. The delay was due to arrangements for providers and security at the site, the spokesperson said.
Madison Vigil for Life co-director Steve Karlen described the moment of hearing the news May 5 as one of "total elation."
"We had an inkling this would be the case," Karlen said, "but the fact that we now have a definite statement for it is a great victory for Catholics, Christians, and all pro-lifers out there."
However, a statement released later in the day by UW Health renewed suspicions that the organization had not entirely abandoned the plans to include second-trimester abortion in their range of services.
"There are reports in today's media that UW Health has abandoned its plans to provide second trimester pregnancy terminations. This is not true," the statement said. "UW Health remains strongly committed to a comprehensive women's reproductive health service that includes this important procedure.
"All of our clinical programs are designed and implemented to best serve the needs of our patients," the statement continued. "Because of the sensitive nature of this clinical program, we do not consider it in the best interests of our patients to discuss the timing or location of these services. We remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure that area women have access to a comprehensive women's health program."
"Despite the flurry of statements and denials regarding abandonment of the late-term abortion plan at the Madison Surgery Center, there are no surprises here," said Barbara Lyons, executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life in a press release May 6. "It is no surprise that UW is committed to finding another location for late-term abortions. To them, it is the politically correct thing to do."
But pro-life groups continue to thank all who were instrumental in delaying and defeating the plan at the Madison Surgery Center through the persistent presence displayed.
"It wasn't politicians or judges or people with money and influence that won this battle," Madison Vigil for Life wrote in its press release May 5. "It was the humble, the meek, and the lowly who came before God asking for deliverance. The working dads. The mothers and children. Retirees and students. The Lord has done great things for us, and Holy is His Name!"
"All of the regular 'meat and potatoes' Catholics and pro-lifers in general, who faithfully and sacrificially helped in this effort, through prayer or street activism, can be very satisfied that Our Lord took their 'loaves and fishes' and brought about a successful result," said Patrick Delaney, respect life coordinator for the Diocese of Madison. "I can't help but thank Vigil for Life and Pro-Life Wisconsin in particular for their efforts in this regard. We all owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude."
"Thanks to the thousands of Wisconsin citizens who vehemently oppose this plan, it has been derailed at the first location," said Lyons. "Wisconsin Right to Life, those citizens, and the groups who kept up a constant stream of opposition are now alert and looking for the next move by UW officials. The abandonment of the Madison Surgery Center is one gigantic step forward but not the final one, and we will be there every step of the way."