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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Wisc. Republicans Seek to Water Down 1849 Abortion Ban w/ Rape, Incest Exceptions

'We wanted to put an idea forward that shows we are willing to be reasonable... '

(Headline USA) Republicans who control the Wisconsin Legislature unveiled a bill Wednesday that would create rape and incest exceptions to the state’s 1849 abortion ban and clarify when abortions that protect the health of the mother would be allowed.

The move comes as a pending lawsuit supported by Democrat Gov. Tony Evers seeks to overturn the ban entirely.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told the Associated Press in an interview Tuesday that he hoped Democrats and Evers would be open to clarifying the health of the mother exception and creating rape and incest exceptions for up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy.

Evers said during his reelection campaign last year that he ignore the Supreme Court and would veto any bill that does not do away with the ban entirely and return the law as it was before Roe v. Wade was deemed unconstitutional last year following nearly 50 years of legal wrangling.

Before the Roe repeal, Wisconsin law allowed for abortions for any reason at 20 or more weeks post-fertilization, or 22 weeks after the last menstrual cycle.

The Republican bill would allow for abortions in the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy for victims of rape or incest. It does not put a time limit on abortions that would cause “a serious risk of death of the pregnant woman or of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the woman.”

“We are still proudly pro-life, but there are some things that are different than they were 175 years ago,” Vos told AP. “We wanted to put an idea forward that shows we are willing to be reasonable.”

Evers has said the Wisconsin Legislature should codify Roe v. Wade. Evers has twice called special sessions of the Legislature seeking to repeal the 1849 ban and create a way to put the question before voters. Republicans voted instead to protect the lives of unborn babies, and rejected both proposals.

The bill, which Republicans said was modeled after Wyoming law, would have to clear both the Assembly and Senate before it would get to Evers. Republican state Sen. Mary Felzkowski, who is cosponsoring the measure, said she hoped it would get a vote in the Senate but she had no assurances from leadership. Vos said he wanted to find Democrat support for the proposal, which he expected to vote on later this spring.

Republicans are also bringing back a bill that would allow pharmacists to dispense birth control. Bill sponsor Rep. Joel Kitchens said he saw it as a way to prevent more unwanted babies. The Assembly passed the proposal last session, but it died in the Senate.

Democrats have been united in calling for the state’s 174-year-old abortion ban to be repealed entirely.

Democrat Attorney General Josh Kaul filed the lawsuit just days after Roe v. Wade was overturned. He argues that abortion is perfectly acceptable up until the moment of birth.

The lawsuit also argues that the ban is unenforceable because it has become obsolete. The ban was enacted before women had the right to vote and before the Civil War.

The winner of the state Supreme Court race on April 4 will determine majority control of the court that will likely decide the lawsuit. Democrat-backed candidate Janet Protasiewicz is running as a supporter of killing unborn babies. Her opponent, conservative Dan Kelly, is backed by the state’s three top pro-life groups, all of which support keeping the ban in place.

Milwaukee, Dane and Sheboygan counties were the only places in Wisconsin where abortions were taking place before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Clinics stopped scheduling abortions after the court’s ruling.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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