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Republican bill adds exceptions to WI abortion law, sparks mixed reaction

By Mary Jo Ola,

2023-03-15
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UPDATE (Associated Press): Gov. Tony Evers and Democratic leaders soundly rejected the Republican proposal, calling it a cynical ploy to deceive voters just three weeks before a pivotal Wisconsin Supreme Court election.

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A group of Wisconsin Republican lawmakers announced their effort to add exceptions and updates to the state's 1849 abortion law.

The current law bans nearly all abortions unless the mother's life is in jeopardy. It took effect when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last June.

The bill adds exceptions for rape and incest up until 12 weeks into a pregnancy. The bill also clarifies when abortions are allowed to protect the mother's life and health. It does not have a time limit in cases to ensure the mother's life is protected.

"We are trusting these families, these women and their husbands to make those decisions with her medical providers," said lead sponsor Sen. Mary Felzkowski.

Republicans brought back a bill to make birth control accessible through a pharmacist's prescription alongside the proposed changes to the state abortion law. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos wants the two to be seen as a package.

"We want to make the need for abortion rare. There is no one in our caucus who believes that we should be having an abortion for birth control," Speaker Vos said.

Gov. Tony Evers responded in a statement that said: "An overwhelming majority of Wisconsin supports restoring Roe and repealing our 1849-era criminal abortion ban, and I won't sign anything less."

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin published a few tweets after the bill was introduced supporting the governor's position.

Organizations against abortion had mixed reactions to the bill.

Legislative director Gracie Skogman with Wisconsin Right to Life explained they support the update and clarification of the medical emergency piece. However, they are concerned about the rape and incest exception.

"It has always been the mission at Wisconsin Right to Life to protect and defend all life even in those heartbreaking cases. We want to provide a voice to those children and ensure that they are protected," Skogman said.

Matt Sande, legislative director with Pro-Life Wisconsin, called the bill disheartening. The group believes the current law is not strong enough and the legislature needs to ramp up efforts to provide care for the mother and baby, including paid family leave.

"They're trying to moderate the Republican position on abortion. They're trying to make it so-called more reasonable by adding these exceptions. Well, again, this is not a prudential decision," Sande explained.

Speaker Vos pushed that this effort was to find a middle ground with Democrats, however, several Democrats denounced the bill while reacting on social media.

Vos said they have the votes in the Assembly for the bill to add exceptions. The lead sponsor, Sen. Mary Felzkowski, said they do not yet have the needed 17 Republican votes in the Senate.


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