Wisconsin Abortion Clinics Face New Mandate

A federal appeals court in Chicago has upheld Wisconsin’s so-called “heartbeat rule,” which requires abortion clinics to offer their patients an opportunity to view an ultrasound image of the fetus or to hear the fetal heartbeat before obtaining an abortion. Representatives of several clinics in the state said they planned to comply with the law and would enforce the new mandate by the end of this month.

The “heart-beat rule” was originally included as part of legislation which requires women to make two appointments, at least 24 hours apart, before obtaining an abortion. The basic law went into effect last year, but a few elements, including the “heart-beat rule,” were blocked until their constitutionality could be determined in court.

Ann Olson, director of Affiliated Medical Services in Milwaukee said that enactment of the “heart-beat rule” would force little change at her clinic, since ultrasounds were already “routinely” performed on patients. “Generally, the women are interested in seeing it (ultrasound image),” she commented. Olson said that her clinic will make arrangements for women to hear the fetal heartbeat, but noted that the beat cannot be heard in women who are less than 10 weeks pregnant.

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin’s legislative director, Amalia Vagts said that Planned Parenthood already allows women to view their ultrasound images and hear the fetal heartbeat when they request it, so that implementation of the policy would not be a problem. “I see this (the “heartbeat rule”) as a coercive tactic, but not as something …that will have any kind of noticeable impact,” said Vagts.

Assistant Attorney General Bruce Olsen said future appeals of the case are not likely.


Nando Times and AP - August 19, 1999

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