By Kathleen Gilbert

Updated 6:21 EST

MADISON, Wisconsin, May 6, 2010 ( – The health system for the University of Wisconsin, UW Health, is denying that it has abandoned its intent to begin late-term abortions – a denial apparently meant to contradict a communication from the Wisconsin state Attorney General's office, which affirmed Wednesday that plans to provide the procedure at the Madison Surgery Center had been shot down.

But pro-Life Wisconsin and the Alliance Defense Fund are pointing out that the statements from the attorney general and UW Health are not necessarily contradictory. UW Health's statement says that the “timing [and] location” of the procedure would now be secret – in other words, say pro-life groups, the late-term abortion plan has been quietly shifted away from Madison Surgery Center, where it was originally planned to begin before becoming a target of pro-life outrage.

The UW Health statement reads: “There are reports in today’s media that UW Health has abandoned its plans to provide second trimester pregnancy terminations. This is not true.

“UW Health remains strongly committed to a comprehensive women’s reproductive health service that includes this important procedure. All of our clinical programs are designed and implemented to best serve the needs of our patients,” it continues.

“Because of the sensitive nature of this clinical program, we do not consider it in the best interests of our patients to discuss the timing or location of these services. We remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure that area women have access to a comprehensive women’s health program.”

Originally approved in early 2009, the deadline for beginning the late-term abortions at MSC has been repeatedly pushed back, according to Pro-Life Wisconsin. The Madison Surgery Center is a joint partnership between Meriter Hospital, the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics and the University of Wisconsin Medical Foundation.

Commenting on the statement, Matt Sande of Pro-Life Wisconsin told that “while UW Health may be committed to this procedure in general, somewhere, sometime, that's one thing - but that doesn't say where you're doing it.”

“It's a way for them to save face,” said Sande. “They didn't want to say that, yes, we've abandoned plans at the Madison Surgery Center. They're loathe to say that.”

Pro-Life Wisconsin and the Alliance Defense Fund had announced victory Wednesday after receiving a letter from Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Kevin Potter. That letter stated that: “It is my understanding based on recent information from the UW that they have now abandoned plans to provide late-term abortion services at MSC.”

The pro-lifers credited the turnaround Wednesday to the deluge of criticism from pro-life Wisconsin citizens, including pro-life doctors at the Center itself, who expressed outrage at the plan through boycotts, petitions, rallies, prayer vigils, and an advertizing campaign.

The Attorney General's office also said it is standing by its original statement. The denial was issued by UW Health, whereas the Attorney General cited communication with the University of Wisconsin.

ADF legal counsel Matt Bowman noted in an email published by Jill Stanek that “the UW now admits that they are planning these abortions secretly. Therefore the UW Hospital's statement says that it is now officially engaged in an abortion cover-up.”

“The UWHCA board is appointed by the legislature, they had a public hearing about this plan, and in 2009 they denied they had concocted the plan in secret,” he continued. “But now the UW Hospital claims it can withhold information from the public about doing late-term abortions, and avoid public scrutiny about whether they will comply with a multitude of federal and state laws.

“The people of WI will not allow the UW Hospital to adopt an official policy of covering up abortion schemes that were discussed in a public meeting by a state agency.”