Post-Roe v. Wade Panel Discussion on Campus


Morgan Fuerstenberg graphic

The Department of Criminal Justice and Social Sciences hosted a panel discussion as an educational opportunity for the betterment of reproductive health and well-being on Oct. 20 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the University Rooms of the Markee Pioneer Student Center. Dr. Dong Isbister, the coordinator of the UW-Platteville Women’s and Gender Studies program, moderated the panel presentations and panel discussion. 

The speakers included Abby Allen, a physician-assistant; Dr. Elizabeth Gates, Professor of Psychology and Chair of the Department of Psychology at UW-Platteville; Rachel Herman, a registered nurse and advanced practice nurse prescriber and Director of Student Health Services at UW-Platteville; and Linda Mulroy-Bowden, Executive Director of Student Life and Development and the Title IX coordinator at UW-Platteville. 

Describing herself “as a female, as a mother, as a daughter and as a healthcare provider,” Allen spoke from her own experiences, and not as a spokesperson for her employer, The Grant County Regional Health Center.

Allen began by explaining the definition of abortion from the Wisconsin Administration Code Medical Examining Board and Med 11.02: “the artificial intentional disruption or removal of an implanted blastocyst, embryo or fetus from the uterus of a pregnant woman by whatever means.” 

She also spoke about the first four weeks of gestation, noting that less than 22 weeks gestation, is insufficient to sustain life. Up to 29 weeks, the scientific consensus is that the fetus cannot feel pain.

She then added that women seek abortions for many reasons, including rape, incest, unstable relationships, plans to further their education or career, medical complications and cost. 

Allen explained the medical and surgical options for abortion. For the medical option, Allen said, “Women often feel it’s more natural. They’re able to do it at home.” However, it can be costly, is less effective, has a higher risk of complications and takes longer to complete. There are also limitations on when it can be used, which is up to 11 weeks gestation. 

Surgical options are performed at an outpatient facility, usually take less than 15 minutes and can be performed up to 14 weeks gestation. An abortion during a gestation of more than 14 weeks requires vacuum aspiration. Allen assured the audience that abortions do not impact fertility if no other underlying health factors are involved.

Dr. Gates talked about the relationship between mental health and abortion. “Abortions do not cause psychological harm in women,” 

Dr. Gates said. She added that relief is the most common emotion women report after having an abortion.

About 97 – 99% of women report that they do not regret having an abortion regardless of how long after the procedure they are asked, Dr. Gates explained. 

Those who expressed regret often regretted the circumstances that surrounded their abortion, such as abnormal fetus development, rather than the abortion itself.  

 “Receiving an abortion did not harm the health and well being of the women … However, being denied an abortion resulted in worse financial health and familial outcomes,” Dr. Gates said.

Herman spoke next and explained that Student Health Services provides resources including birth control education, birth control prescriptions, condoms, lab prescriptions for the prevention of HIV, STD evaluation and treatment, pregnancy testing and emergency contraception, which will not disrupt an established pregnancy.

Herman advised students to phone first before visiting an abortion center. Herman said that Iowa City, IA has the closest center, geographically. She also mentioned that most of the centers in Minnesota are in the Twin Cities and that Rochester, MN, has a center as well. The gestation limitation in Minnesota is 10 weeks.

Mulroy-Bowden offered that if someone seeks advice, they are mostly not interested in hearing someone’s opinion, but more interested in learning about resources, such as SHS. She added, “As a Title IX Coordinator, I offer myself up as a resource.” 

Mulroy-Bowden wrapped up the presentations and concluded, “As a university/community, we have a responsibility to each other and … we need to get people to the resources that are appropriate without that judgment and without having them feel like they don’t have a right to be able to make a choice because really the choice is up to the person who has to live with it, right?”

One person in attendance questioned Allen based on a claim from both the American College of Pediatricians and the Bosnian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences (2004) that life scientifically begins at fertilization. Allen responded, “Could that fertilized egg live outside of the womb at that time?” and the attendant asked why living outside of the womb was relevant. 

“I don’t think people are ever going to reach a consensus … When you feel that life begins is going to be different from what I feel when life begins,” Dr. Gates responded.

Dr. Gates continued that hormonal birth control methods are legal and work by making the uterus inhospitable to an egg that is fertilized. She then added that she remembers when pharmacists in Platteville could refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control. 

Another attendant asked for the panel’s recommendation on finding credible sources and correct information. “Every state has a Planned Parenthood. They are very good at keeping track of the most current information and you can go to any state’s Planned Parenthood, and they will tell you exactly what they can offer and what they can’t offer,” Mulroy-Bowden responded. 

“At (SHS) … definitely just call us and we can help with that … On the Planned Parenthood website, just plug in what state, and then what clinics are available and what level of service those clinics provide” will be shown, such as reproductive health services, Herman added.

Another person in attendance asked if transgender people using hormonal therapies or birth control should be concerned about those healthcare options being taken away. Allen explained that taking away such resources would impact huge numbers of people. 

Finally, a member of the audience asked, “We can talk a lot about what women can do, what can men do?” Dr. Gates advised that it is important to double up on the methods of birth control, advising all participants engaged in intercourse to consider how they can prevent pregnancy. 

“50% of women who have had an abortion were using contraception in the month that they got pregnant … People are trying their best to be responsible using contraception and it’s not perfect,” Dr. Gates added.