In Wisconsin, what are my options if genetic testing shows the fetus is not viable?

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of federal protections for abortion and Wisconsin has banned nearly all abortions After its entry into force, some people questioned the implications for genetic testing.

Specifically, people communicated with Wisconsin Public Radio Why Wisconsin The question of what options are available to pregnant women now when genetic testing shows abnormalities in the fetus, including those that do not allow the baby to survive outside the womb.

A Wisconsin woman was 9 weeks pregnant when she reached out and asked about it. Why doesn’t Sconsin use her name because she fears she will be shamed or incriminated for asking these questions.

“I am currently 9 weeks pregnant and a much needed baby,” she wrote. “Because I will be 35 at birth, on the advice of my doctor, I will have genetic testing to make sure the baby is healthy and viable. If I find out that it is not, what are my options? Will I have to wait until my life is in danger before considering abortion as an option?”

In the United States, it is common for providers to offer and discuss genetic testing as part of prenatal care, according to medical professionals interviewed by WPR. Some tests can be done before pregnancy, When people think about having a baby. During pregnancy, tests It takes place during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy Provide information about the fetus, including whether the fetus can be born with certain genetic disorders and if the fetus is incompatible with life, which means the child will not survive outside the womb.

The Wisconsin mother, who also has a 2-year-old, and her husband are thrilled that they are having another child, but they don’t know how recent legal changes affect her pregnancy is causing her anxiety.

“I’m so excited to have another baby,” she said in a follow-up interview. “But I’m afraid if something happens to our baby, what are our options. If that’s not possible, if there are just crazy birth defects or things that make it incompatible with life, will I have to put up with it or if something happens, maybe not necessarily a miscarriage, but If there is no heartbeat, will I, again, have to wait until my life is in danger before there is any medical intervention available to me here now?”

In Wisconsin, the ability to undergo genetic testing has not changed; It is the ability to act on the information gleaned from these tests.

said Dr. James Lane, an obstetrician-gynecologist with Ascension Wisconsin in Milwaukee and a member of the American Association of Pro-Life OB-GYNs. He said he had not heard of anyone questioning the legality of genetic tests, and he said he did not believe providers had stopped offering or discussing genetic tests since the government ban was imposed.

“The intent of the law is not to allow the abortion of any unborn child,” he said.

The 1849 ban on abortion in Wisconsin unless the life of the pregnant woman was in danger. This means any genetic disorders Found in the fetus through genetic testing is not a legal reason for an abortion in Wisconsin. If someone wants to terminate a pregnancy, they have to go to a state where it is legal or wait until a medical emergency requires action to save the patient’s life, said Dr Wendy Molaska, president of the association. Wisconsin Medical Association.

This is how UW Health understands, too.

“In the absence of any maternal disease, genetic abnormalities in the fetus — including those that do not allow the fetus to survive outside the womb — do not constitute a life-threatening condition for the mother,” said Dr. Lisa Barwellheatt, interim chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, College of Medicine. Medicine and Public Health at the University of Wisconsin, in a written statement. “Because abortion is not performed to save the life of the mother, it would not be legal in Wisconsin under the 1849 law.”

Across the country, providers are trying to understand which laws have exceptions like this, exceptions Some feel it is not well defined.

Molaska has been practicing family medicine for over 20 years in Wisconsin. She runs her own clinic, Dedicated Family Care, in Fitchburg.

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As a doctor who worked in obstetrics and gynecology in rural areas, Molaska saw patients grappling with the news that their child would be born with serious birth defects, such as brainlessnesswhen a child is born without parts of the brain or skull, or Trisomy 18When a child experiences heart defects and infections that can lead to death.

She has had difficult conversations with her patients about test results, and she has patients who have taken both paths: termination of pregnancy or continuing a pregnancy.

“I think what this really results in is that the conversation has to be a conversation between (a patient) and her provider,” Molasca said. “…I think a physician should be able to talk to their patient about what all the options are…all the evidence we have and then the patient and her family make that decision in terms of their own values ​​and what they see as what they want to do.”

Since arriving, the mother from Wisconsin has completed genetic testing in her first trimester. Her husband was adopted, and they don’t know much about his parents’ medical history, so they decided to get genetic testing done while pregnant.

Dr. Kara Goldman, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University, said family history and a desire to know if the baby could have any genetic abnormalities are common reasons for testing and can help with decisions.

“I think it’s important to know that a lot of people get themselves checked because they want to be able to prepare for what’s going to happen to their families,” Goldman said. “And so if the pregnancy is chromosomally abnormal, patients might decide, ‘It’s important for me to know so I can prepare our family members, so we can have the resources, so we can go to the right doctors. “So it’s not just about using the information to finish, but it’s really important to get that information, so patients have that choice.”

Lane and Goldman said another reason for doing genetic testing is to help identify resources and help parents and families they might need for the birth, baby, and family unit.

“These are optional tests that some parents want so they have a chance to prepare for the birth of a child who may have some abnormalities,” Lynn said. “Sometimes they’ve had a previous baby in trouble and they just want to know how to prepare for the next baby. Or they want to put their minds at ease that there is nothing else to suspect that is not normal. So sometimes it’s just getting ready for that getting everything ready, preparing the family and making plans for the baby. The new. Another reason is just to relieve anxiety.”

If a provider performs an illegal abortion in Wisconsin, they do could face a felony. Patients do not face trial. Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Cole said: Don’t plan to enforce the ban of 1849, although local law enforcement can. Governor Tony Evers said he would grant amnesty to those tried under the ban. The statute of limitations is longer than that of Cole and Evers.

This story came from a question as part of the WHYsconsin project. If you have a question about abortion access and reproductive rights, submit your question below or at wpr.org/WHYsconsin and we may answer it in a future story.

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