Republicans unveil bill to update Wisconsin's 1849 abortion ban
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Republican lawmakers introduced a bill that would update Wisconsin's 1849 near-total abortion ban by adding exceptions for rape and incest while also clarifying when a doctor can perform an abortion if a pregnant woman's life is at risk.
On Wednesday, Assembly and Senate Republicans unveiled the proposal as Democrats have put the issue of abortion in the spotlight as they seek to repeal the 174-year-old state law that only allows abortions in order to save a mother's life.
The GOP bill received immediate pushback from Gov. Tony Evers who reiterated his previous pledge of vetoing any bill that doesn't return the same rights that were in place before Roe v. Wade was overturned.
"If I understand the bill correctly, yes. I would veto them," Evers said in an interview with CBS 58. "I haven't changed my mind on anything. I've always said it's important to get back to what this state did before Roe v. Wade was dumped by the U.S. Supreme Court."
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he had hoped Evers and Democrats would work with the Republicans to update abortion laws.
"The Legislature is the place where these decisions should be had," Vos said. "I am super disappointed Evers has drawn such a bright line to say… he will not sign any update to the statue. I think that's reckless and irresponsible."
Under the bill, abortion would only be allowed during the first trimester, which is 12 weeks, for victims of rape or incest. The criteria for how that would be determined in not included in the bill.
It also clarifies medical professionals will not face felony charges if they believe an abortion is necessary to save the life of a mother. It comes as some doctors feared they could be arrest because they say the current law is too vague.
The bill states saving the life of the mother means "when pregnancy is contraindicated due to a serious risk of death of the pregnant woman or of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the woman." Also, "any circumstance in which the fetus has no chance of survival, including a physical condition of the fetus that makes survival of the fetus outside of the uterus not possible, an anembryonic pregnancy, an ectopic pregnancy, or a molar pregnancy."
The author of the bill, Sen. Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma), said she currently does not have enough Republican votes in the Senate to pass this bill.
Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said the bill would not be voted on his chamber.
"Further discussion on this specific proposal is unnecessary," LeMahieu said in a statement.
His comments come after he told CBS 58 last year he didn't want to put his member through a "tough vote" on abortion regardless of if some of his members support adding exceptions due to Evers threat of a veto.
Democrats call the GOP bill political as it comes on the heel of the high stakes state Supreme Court race where justices are anticipated to decide the fate of abortion laws.
"I would call these bills a political stunt," Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard said. "They are trying to check a box the people of Wisconsin are smarter than that they are not going to fall for this."
Vos said he's remaining optimistic and said the proposal will likely be voted on in the Assembly after the April election.
"The first hope is that Dan Kelly (the conservative Supreme Court candidate) wins the election so that we have a Legislature that actually is a place where political decisions are made, not the state Supreme Court," Vos said. "I'm an optimist. I think that eventually people will realize that the right way to do it is through the traditional process, not through a super Legislature, the state Supreme Court, but hopefully the voters agree."
Republicans also reintroduced a bipartisan bill to allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control. The measure seeks to broaden birth control access. Anyone 18 or older would be allowed to obtain hormonal contraceptive patches and birth control pills at pharmacies, under the bill. Current law only allows doctors to prescribe them.