Republicans seek updated abortion laws amid legal battle, Planned Parenthood resuming services
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- With some abortion clinics in Wisconsin resuming services this week, the debate over women's reproductive rights is far from over.
Republican lawmakers are advancing abortion-related bills through the Legislature despite an ongoing legal battle to determine whether the state's pre-Civil War era abortion ban is in effect and threats by Gov. Tony Evers to veto proposals that don't restore pre-Roe abortion laws.
During a public hearing Tuesday, Republicans testified on a package of bills they say would provide more clarity to women and doctors.
One proposal would change the definition of abortion to exempt pregnancy complications by clarifying miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies are not considered abortions under state law. Another proposal would prohibit state and local government officials from providing or promoting abortion services.
Republicans also proposed allowing tax filers to claim a fetus as a dependent if an ultrasound detects a fetal heartbeat. The measure would raise the individual income tax exemption from $700 to $1,000. Another bill would award grants to pregnancy resource centers.
The bills are playing out against the backdrop of a lawsuit brought forth by Attorney General Josh Kaul that seeks to overturn the state's near-total abortion ban.
A Dane County judge ruled that law does not broadly apply to abortions, which prompted Planned Parenthood clinics in Madison and Milwaukee to open their doors again for abortion services.
The judge's order is not a final ruling, but the issue is expected to make its way to the state Supreme Court which is controlled by liberals as of Aug. 1.
Sen. Romaine Quinn (R-Cameron), who authored most of the bills, said he's not going to let a court decision stop his efforts to try and update state statutes.
"I think we should provide that clarity regardless of what judge in Dane County determines," Quinn said. "I don't want [the courts] to achieve a political end by finding some weird rational to declare abortion a constitutional right when it's clearly not written anywhere in our statutes. This should be played out legislatively."
Kaul is remaining confident his lawsuit will prevail, which he says will "settle the debate" over abortion laws.
"It's been our view throughout this case that the 1849 law does not criminalize abortion," Kaul said. "Wisconsinites have been clear that they want to restore access to safe and legal abortions and we're going to keep fighting to restore that access until we get a final court decision."
The debate comes as Republicans in both chambers have struggled to reach consensus on updating the 1849 law to include exceptions for rape and incest.