| ||Curt Jacobson, a parishioner of St. Peter Parish in Madison, holds a sign at the corner of Park St. and Regent St., outside the Madison Surgery Center. The clinic, jointly operated by University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics, will perform second-trimester abortions if a plan currently requiring board approval is enacted. (Catholic Herald photo by Kat Wagner)|
MADISON -- Pro-life groups gathered outside the Madison Surgery Center on January 8 for a peaceful prayer rally organized by Madison Vigil for Life to protest newly revealed plans by University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics (UWHC) to begin performing late-second trimester abortions at its jointly operated clinic in Madison.
"We're at a critical juncture for this battle for life," said Steve Karlen, co-director of Madison Vigil for Life, which organized the protest after the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) alerted them to UWHC's plans. "We wanted to come out here to make a statement to the community that we don't want any abortions performed here, much less an abortion center.
"If they go forward with these plans, they can expect a constant presence from us," Karlen added. "We're not going away soon."
ADF, which sent a letter January 6 to UWHC asking them to refrain from implementing its "secret and potentially illegal plans," argues that a full-service second-trimester abortion practice at the Madison Surgery Center, a joint venture of UWHC, UW Medical Foundation, and Meriter Hospital, may include compelling unwilling employees to aid or participate in dismembering pre-born babies, which would violate their religious conscience rights, and may constitute unlawful state funding of abortion.
Other groups, including Pro-Life Wisconsin and Wisconsin Right to Life, have also released public statements condemning the UWHC proposal.
Responding to accusations
The plan to begin midterm (between 13 and 22 weeks) abortions at the clinic was prompted by the December retirement of Dr. Dennis Christensen, who performed abortions at the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Madison. It would go into effect if the Madison Surgery Center Board of Directors approves the decision. The board is expected to act sometime after a February meeting of the UWHC board of directors.
UWHC, UW Medical Foundation, and Meriter Hospital released a joint statement to media January 9 clarifying the plan and its reasons for the proposal.
"The concerned physicians who brought this issue forward, and many UW Health and Meriter leaders, believe there is a public-health responsibility to provide such procedures as part of a comprehensive program of family planning and reproductive health care that our community deserves," the statement said.
The statement said that "great care" is being taken to ensure that the proposal conforms to state and federal laws on abortion, as well as ensuring only voluntary participation by physicians, other care providers, students, or trainees; that no state funds will be used other than legally authorized Medicaid exceptions; and that there are no current research studies using materials from these medical procedures, nor are any contemplated.
Taking a stand against abortion
But many protesters at the January 8 rally said that they were there to take a stand against abortion -- that it should not be available here in any form.
"The possibility of the Madison Surgery Center being utilized for second trimester abortions, with the support of the UW Hospitals and Clinics and Meriter Hospital, is a travesty," said Susanna Herro, director of the Diocesan Office of Justice and Pastoral Outreach. "Major pro-life groups across the state have come together with an unprecedented determination to show how unsavory and unwelcome this change would be in Madison. Plans are being developed to petition the entities, to deliver messages to board members, and to educate the public on the inhumanity of this plan."
The presence of so many people at an event on such a cold day, she said, "shows that people are willing to sacrifice for this, that we feel strongly that this is morally reprehensible."
"My oldest daughter was born at 26 weeks, right over there," said Margie Watson, a parishioner at St. Aloysius Parish in Sauk City, pointing across Park St. to Meriter Hospital. "But they fought for her life -- and, what's interesting is, she fought for her life. So I'm just thinking, what's the difference? It's what's outside -- it's the doctor.
"The women might be in a difficult place, but the doctors aren't," she said. "They need to remember their oath to do no harm."
Watson and two of her sons came all the way to Madison for the protest to show that life matters, she said, and, as her son added, "to help keep children from dying."
Herro said that more information on action people can take will be shared throughout the community. Those who are interested in being placed on an e-mail alert list to voice concerns about this inhumane expansion of abortion, can e-mail
and request "Madison Surgery Center alert list."