By Benita Matthews and Ting-Chia Kan
Intro: Abortion care in Wisconsin struggles reach rural areas in the state. State law restrictions prevent abortion services from expanding. Let’s go live to Benita Mathew and Ting-Chia Khan at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Women in rural Wisconsin struggle to find abortion care because of the state’s restrictive abortion laws. The state currently has four abortion clinics located in Madison, Milwaukee, and Sheboygan. Women from rural areas struggle to travel to these clinics. The Legal and Policy Director of Planned Parenthood, Mel Barnes, says the limited providers offering abortion care increases the disparity significantly in rural communities.
There are very few health care providers offering this service in Wisconsin which is part of why access is so limited.
State law requires that women receive counseling and wait 24 hours before the procedure can occur. Barnes says this policy becomes an obstacle for women living outside major cities because they need to travel to the clinic twice to receive care.
Anyone else in the state is driving to those places at least twice because that’s what state law requires to access that care. So rural communities are hugely impacted by the burden of traveling that distance.
State laws also increase financial barriers for women. State insurance plans can only cover abortion in the cases of rape or incest, or if the woman’s life is in danger according to the Guttmacher Institute. Barnes says this policy places an economic burden, especially on low-income women.
It is very difficult for low-income women to access abortion care in our state. There are so many state laws restricting insurance coverage of abortion care. That’s unique to Wisconsin.
To fill the economic burden, some volunteer-run organizations such as the Freedom Fund provide financial aid. However, their funds rely solely on private donations because public funding cannot support abortion care.
The Freedom Fund gives aid to approximately 80 to 90 women per year. Instead of asking women to pay back the donations, the Freedom Fund’s President Marlene Ablett encourages women to vote.
The reason women are in such a predicament is because there’s a bunch of old men deciding what women should do.
Ablett believes to reduce the disparity in abortion services, birth control should be more accessible in rural areas.
Especially in rural areas where so many abortions that are so distant so they have to drive a long way, and like say it if they have children or they have jobs, or if they don’t have a car it’s difficult to maintain or access birth control.
Barnes says that until Wisconsin’s laws are changed, abortion care in rural areas within the state will remain difficult.
Benita Mathew and Ting-Chia Kan reporting.