By Associated Press - Sunday, February 5, 2017

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin has fined 22 hospitals in recent years for not complying with a law requiring them to offer emergency contraception to rape victims.

The 2008 law requires emergency rooms to give sexual assault victims information about the so-called “morning-after pill,” to provide the drugs on request, and to train staff about the drugs.

The hospitals include SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison, which was fined $7,500 in 2015, the Wisconsin State Journal reported Sunday (https://bit.ly/2jQ1FLi ). The Department of Human Services said the hospital failed in 2014 to inform three sexual assault patients about emergency contraception or make it available to them.



According to the state agency, the emergency room director told state inspectors that the hospital had two reasons: its Catholic affiliation and its policy of transferring sexual assault patients to another hospital that has forensic nursing services for investigating rape.

St. Mary’s spokeswoman Kim Sveum said the hospital is now complying with the law. The hospital has provided information about emergency contraception to 13 patients since June 2015 and given the pills to two patients who requested them, she said.

Officials with some of the fined hospitals said they were offering emergency contraception but failed to document it.

Former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle signed Wisconsin’s law, which was supported mostly by Democrats but also some Republicans back when Democrats controlled the Senate and Republicans had a narrow majority in the Assembly. Today, Republicans have large majorities in both chambers and Gov. Scott Walker is a Republican.

Sara Finger, executive director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, said the hospitals’ lack of compliance with the law shows why it’s important for the state to enforce it.

“Compliance is everything,” Finger said. “It’s scary how many women might not be getting the compassionate care they need.”

Matt Sande, legislative director for Pro-Life Wisconsin, which fought the law, said some of the cited hospitals might oppose the law for religious reasons.

“If there are hospitals among these 22 that are noncompliant because they feel the law is a violation of their religious freedom, they ought to challenge it,” Sande said. “There are grounds to do so.”

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Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, https://www.madison.com/wsj

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