Univ. of Wis. Hospitals confirms it will end late-term abortion program

Exposed program threatened religious conscience rights, risked misusing state funds
Wednesday, December 15, 2010

MADISON, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics officially confirmed Tuesday that it has abandoned its plans to provide full-service, second-trimester abortion services in a jointly operated facility or in any other facility it controls. In May, the Alliance Defense Fund obtained a letter from the Wisconsin Department of Justice stating that the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics had stopped pursuing the plan, but UWHC then made public comments that indicated they weren’t fully giving up at that time, despite public pressure brought to bear by ADF and its allies.

“Christians and other pro-life medical students and staff shouldn’t be forced to compromise their beliefs to maintain their professions,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “The UWHC and other medical facilities involved made the right decision to terminate this covert program, which threatened to require pro-life employees to participate, against their conscience, in the killing of preborn, developed babies. In addition, the program was in danger of violating state law, which prohibits state agencies from paying for abortions.”

ADF attorneys sent a letter last year to UWHC urging it to cease its plans for the program. The letter also pointed out that such a program may constitute an unlawful funding of abortion by a state agency. A few months later, ADF sent another letter to involved officials regarding a memo they had distributed to employees that said employees could sometimes be forced to assist in the dangerous abortions.  Through public records requests, ADF discovered that UWHC officials had plotted with Planned Parenthood to get the plan approved before most employees could know.

In January 2009, ADF uncovered UWHC’s plans to create a full-service practice for the aborting of 19-22 week-old, preborn children at the Madison Surgery Center--a joint venture of UWHC, UW Medical Foundation, and Meriter Hospital. The University of Wisconsin would likely have sent medical residents to train and take part in the killing of the second-trimester babies, as they are currently sending them to Planned Parenthood.

In recent years, UWHC researchers have experimented on body parts obtained from second-trimester abortions performed nearby. If the new practice had been implemented, that class of abortions would have been performed under UWHC’s joint venture. The plan would have also included the abortion of disabled babies, which already occurs at Meriter Hospital.

ADF sent its first letter to the presidents of UWHC, Meriter Hospital, and the UW Medical Foundation, explaining that penalties against any employee who refuses to recommend, aid, or perform abortions based on religious or moral objections would be a blatant violation of state and federal law. It also reminded university and hospital leadership of the fact that “no state or federal funds from various sources may be used for a program that...provides, encourages, or refers for abortions” and that ADF was prepared to take decisive legal action if UWHC took any negative action against its pro-life employees.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.