Barriers in Wisconsin

Abortion Access in Wisconsin

Wisconsin has among the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation. Low-income and rural folks are particularly hard hit by these laws. People of color are historically, and currently, prevented from accessing their reproductive options at higher rates than white people. Women, transgender people and gender non-conforming people in every Wisconsin community need and deserve full, equitable access to compassionate abortion care. 

There are only four abortion clinics in the state of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Madison and Sheboygan. Folks who live far away from these cities are forced to travel to these cities, acquiring burdens of travel costs, time off from work, child care, and other barriers.

In Wisconsin, patients must receive state-directed counseling that includes information designed to discourage them from having an abortion, and then wait 24 hours before the procedure is provided. Counseling must be provided in person and must take place before the waiting period begins, thereby necessitating two trips to the facility. For those who travel long distances to the clinic, this law requires them to make the trip twice or to stay overnight, adding even more costs and barriers.

Anti-abortion protesters are often outside of abortion clinics in Wisconsin. These groups use shame, aggression and medical misinformation to try to deter patients from seeking abortion care.

There are ~80 fake clinics, or Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs), across Wisconsin. CPCs are “storefronts that use false and misleading advertising and the offer of free pregnancy tests or other services to lure women into their offices. Then their goal is to dissuade women from exercising their right to choose.” CPCs use misleading advertising tactics, give evasive answers on the phone, have confusing names and locations, use intimidation, anti-abortion propaganda, and misinformation to stop folks from having abortions, and more. (NARAL Pro-Choice America)  Learn more about fake clinics from Expose Fake Clinics and NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Additional abortion restrictions in Wisconsin include:

  • Patients must receive state-directed counseling that includes information designed to discourage them from having an abortion, and then wait 24 hours before the procedure is provided. Counseling must be provided in person and must take place before the waiting period begins, thereby necessitating two trips to the facility.
  • Health plans offered in the state’s health exchange under the Affordable Care Act can NOT cover the cost of an abortion, unless the patient's life is endangered, their physical health is severely compromised, or in cases of rape or incest.
  • The use of telemedicine to administer medication abortion is prohibited.
  • The parent of a minor must consent before an abortion is provided
  • Public funding can NOT cover the cost of an abortion, except in cases of life endangerment, rape and incest, and when the procedure is necessary to prevent long-lasting damage to the patient’s physical health. Even in these cases, the state will often not approve funding.
  • Patients must undergo an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion; the provider must show and describe the image to the patients
  • An abortion may only be performed up until 20 weeks postfertilization. This law is based on the assertion, which is inconsistent with scientific evidence and has been rejected by the medical community, that a fetus can feel pain at that point in pregnancy. Affiliated Medical Services, the last independent abortion clinic in the state, is the only clinic that will provide abortions up until the 20 week cut-off.

Learn more about state restrictions on abortion from Guttmatcher Institute