Wisconsin GOP looks to block abortions if heartbeat detected

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Republicans pushed ahead Tuesday with a Texas-style abortion ban, holding a hearing on legislation that would prohibit abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.

The bill would prohibit anyone from performing or attempting to perform an abortion if a fetal heartbeat is present unless the pregnant woman’s life is in danger or she could suffer irreversible physical problems from the pregnancy. If a provider detects a heartbeat the pregnant woman would be required to listen to it.

Fetal heartbeats are typically detectable after about six weeks of pregnancy. A physician accused of performing an abortion after a heartbeat is detected would be subject to investigation by the state Medical Examining Board for unprofessional conduct.

The bill would allow anyone to sue an abortion provider who violates the prohibition, regardless of whether they have a stake in the abortion. Anyone who prevails in such a lawsuit would win at least $10,000 for every abortion performed.

The legislation largely mirrors a Texas law passed last year that allows anyone to sue providers who perform abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected regardless of their standing. The Texas law guarantees victors in such lawsuits at least $10,000 in damages.

Mike Murray, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, called the bill “extreme.” Women seeking abortions would be forced to travel out-of-state, similar to how Texans have reacted to that state’s law.

“Our family members, friends, and neighbors ... should not be denied the ability to safely access time-sensitive health care,” Murray said.

The Senate’s government operations committee held a public hearing on the bill Tuesday. Republican leaders in the Senate and Assembly haven’t scheduled any floor votes on the measure yet, but even if the bill were to pass both houses Democratic Gov. Tony Evers almost certainly will veto it.

Evers vetoed a slate of Republican bills aimed at reducing abortions in December, including measures that would put doctors in prison for life if they don’t provide care for babies that survive abortions and ban abortions based on the fetus’ sex.

Evers said then that as long as he is governor he’ll veto any legislation that “turns back the clock on reproductive rights in this state.”

Rebecca Kleefisch, who is vying with Kevin Nicholson for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, has said she would sign a Texas-style abortion ban.

Asked whether Nicholson would support the ban, his spokeswoman, Courtney Mullen, responded: “As Governor, Kevin would sign legislation that prevents abortion and protects innocent life.”


Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1

Todd Richmond
Todd Richmond
Richmond covers Wisconsin government and breaking news.