Wisconsin Legislature sends abortion bills to governor
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Senate on Wednesday sent four abortion bills to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who has promised to veto all of them.
One measure addresses the extremely rare occurrence in which a baby is born alive during an abortion attempt. It would impose criminal penalties on doctors who fail to give medical care to such babies. Organizations representing obstetricians and gynecologists, along with Democratic opponents, say existing laws already provide protections to every healthy newborn, whether born during a failed abortion or under other circumstances.
“No child should be left to die no matter how they came into this world,” said the bill’s lead sponsor, Republican Senate President Roger Roth. “How could anyone object to this?”
Republicans don’t have the votes to override a veto. Democratic Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling said Republicans were pushing the bill merely to fire up their conservative base.
“This is not going to become law,” Shilling said. “Gov. Evers will veto this.”
Evers is expected to act within days.
The bill passed on a 17-14 vote, with all Democrats against and all Republicans in support, except Sen. Andre Jacque who wanted the measure to go further and allow for the mother to face felony charges.
President Donald Trump touted Wisconsin’s proposal during a visit to the state and mocked Evers for his promised veto. Trump has made his support for “born alive” bills a staple of his rallies, accusing doctors of executing babies who survive a failed abortion.
The political dynamic in Wisconsin is a far cry from the past eight years, when Republican Gov. Scott Walker and a willing GOP-controlled Legislature passed several measures restricting abortion in the state, including a 20-week ban. Evers’ win last year allows him to block these abortion bills that likely would have been signed into law by Walker.
Still, anti-abortion politicians and activists feel emboldened in Wisconsin and across the country by the addition of conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. They hope federal courts will uphold laws that prohibit abortions before a fetus is viable outside the womb, the dividing line the high court set in the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
Louisiana , Georgia , Kentucky , Mississippi and Ohio have enacted bills barring abortion once there’s a detectable fetal heartbeat, as early as the sixth week of pregnancy. Missouri’s governor last month signed a bill approving an eight-week ban on abortion, with exceptions only for medical emergencies. Alabama has gone even further, outlawing virtually all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest. None of the bans has taken effect, and all are expected to face legal challenges.
The bills passed in Wisconsin don’t go that far or attempt to further restrict the state’s ban on abortions 20 weeks after fertilization.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded just 143 instances nationwide in which live births resulted from at least 9.3 million abortion attempts between 2003 and 2014. There is no comparable data in Wisconsin because state officials don’t track it.
Wisconsin Right to Life, which supports the bill, said it hasn’t heard of any cases in Wisconsin since the Wisconsin State Journal reported in 1982 that two babies survived abortion attempts in Madison and later died. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Wisconsin Medical Society have registered against the bill.
The bill’s supporters say the measure would remove any gray areas in the law.
Other bills passed would cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, prohibit abortions based on the fetus’ race, sex or defects and require providers to tell women seeking abortions using the drug mifepristone that the process may be reversed after the first dose. All three passed on party line votes, with Republicans in support and Democrats against.
The Assembly passed the bills last month.