MADISON -- Pro-life groups have denounced the unanimous vote by the Madison Surgery Center board of directors on February 6 to begin performing second-trimester abortions at the clinic's 1 S. Park St. location.
The 6-0 vote concludes nearly a month of contentious debate, petitions, and several rallies and protests by pro-life groups objecting to the plan, which had been secret until revealed by the non-profit legal organization Alliance Defense Fund on January 7.
"Killing babies does not solve problems," said Pro-Life Wisconsin state director Peggy Hamill in a statement released after the vote. "Killing a baby is not the answer when that baby is faced with a life-threatening or even fatal condition. Killing a baby is not the answer when a pregnant mother is faced with a serious health problem. Killing babies should not be the final solution we have to offer.
"Shame on the UW and shame on Meriter Hospital for this barbaric vote," Hamill said. "You have failed to protect children and you have failed to support women."
The Madison Surgery Center is a private joint venture of the UW Hospitals and Clinics (UWHC), the UW Medical Foundation, and Meriter Hospital. The board is formed by directors representing each organization.
The UWHC Authority Board had previously approved the proposal in an 11-3 vote February 4 at a public meeting. The earlier votes by the UW Medical Foundation and Meriter Hospital boards were not made public.
According to the plan, doctors at the clinic will perform abortions on women 19 to 22 weeks pregnant. Based on historical estimates, between 120 and 130 procedures would be performed a year, according to Dr. Laurel Rice, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, who presented the proposal at the February 4 meeting of the UWHC Authority Board. Approximately 25 percent of those abortions would be "lethal" cases, in which the child would not live more than a few weeks after birth -- the remaining 75 percent are "healthy" fetuses, Rice acknowledged in response to questions.
An earlier statement by the three organizations had indicated that the basis of the proposal was a "public-health responsibility" to provide availability to abortions after the December retirement of abortionist Dr. Dennis Christensen.
"I come down to the issue of one thing, and that is: is there another place to do this? And if there isn't, what is our responsibility as a great institution to provide medical care?" said UWHC Authority Board Chair David Walsh during the board's February 4 discussion of the plan. "And that's where I turn on my decision, and I feel we have to go ahead and approve this, because I think we have that responsibility. We can't be a part of a conspiracy to deny those constitutional rights."
A statement released February 4 by UW Health said that without "local availability of the service," Madison-area women would be forced to obtain this procedure elsewhere and may obtain it under conditions that do not meet current medical standards. "The concerned physicians who brought this issue forward and UW Health and Meriter leaders believe there is a public need to provide these procedures," the statement said.
Planned Parenthood in Madison is expected to continue to perform abortions up to 19 weeks gestation. Clinics in Milwaukee, Chicago, and Minneapolis currently perform abortions past 19 weeks.