A flurry of bills that restrict women’s access to reproductive health care options, including abortion and contraceptives, passed the Republican-controlled Wisconsin state Legislature over the past three years.
More are expected to pass before the end of the year.
Barbara Lyons, executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life, said the pro-life organization is expecting Assembly Bills 216 and 217 to be taken up and passed by the Senate sometime this fall.
AB 216 lumps together two previously separate provisions: It would prohibit insurance policies for state employees from covering abortion services and would exempt religious organizations from covering contraception under their insurance plans.
Assembly Bill 217 would ban sex-selection abortions and would allow a mother, father or grandparent of “an unborn child that is aborted” to sue the physician that performed the abortion.
So far, only Arizona, Oklahoma, North Dakota and Pennsylvania have this law on the books. The law was passed in Illinois, but has been blocked from taking effect.
Both bills passed the Wisconsin Assembly in June and are sponsored or co-sponsored by Rep. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere.
“The expectation is that there won’t be much difficulty passing the Senate,” Jacque said. “At least that’s been my understanding from the discussions I’ve had (with Senate leaders).”
One of the most restrictive abortion trends finding traction nationally and in Wisconsin is the effort to ban abortions at 20 weeks post-fertilization.
Proponents argue that at this stage of a pregnancy an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain. Opponents say abortion is already illegal after viability in Wisconsin, which physicians agree is between 23 and 24 weeks. In practice, the window for women to get an abortion here would shorten by three or four weeks.
Less than two percent of abortions occur after 20 weeks in Wisconsin, with the vast majority of women having the procedure because of serious health complications to the woman or the fetus, according to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.
Sen. Paul Farrow, R-Pewaukee, and Rep. Erik Severson, R-Star Prairie, are sponsoring the 20-week abortion ban bill, Lyons said. The bill is still being drafted, she said, adding it still has “substantial support” in the legislature.
Two of the more controversial proposals, including a personhood bill that would give a fetus the same constitutional rights as an individual, and a bill that would ban the use of fetal tissue for research purposes do not appear to be gaining any traction.
Both bills also are sponsored by Jacque. Lyons said Wisconsin Right to Life is not supporting the personhood bill.
Lyons said the bill does nothing to protect unborn children because an individual can’t be charged with a crime if the rights of the fetus are allegedly violated.
In addition, she said if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, the bill would create a conflict with a now-nullified Wisconsin law still on the books that bans abortions.
“It’s a bill you can’t do anything with,” Lyons said. “We think it is a very poor strategy, a high-risk maneuver.”