By Jennifer Springer
Madison, Wisconsin: On June 13th the Wisconsin State Assembly passed three bills restricting abortion, along with three more on domestic violence. The vote comes a day after the Senate approved one of the abortion bills in a chaotic session.
With all assembly members voting the party line, Republicans voted in favor and all Democrats voted against, the Assembly approved the abortion measures, sending one to Gov. Scott Walker to be signed into law and the other two to the Senate for approval.
The first bill passed with a vote of 56-39, and mandates an ultrasound be performed on a pregnant woman at least 24 hours before an abortion, a requirement that can be waived if the pregnancy is the result of sexual assault or incest. The bill also requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic.
The two remaining bills would outlaw abortions meant to choose the sex of a fetus and would ban the use of taxpayer money to cover abortions in public employees' health insurance plans and free religious groups from having to provide contraception in their employee health plans.
The bills have been moving quickly through the Legislature after being introduced the week before. In debate, Democrats have argued against the legislation, saying it would harm women's health and hurt their families and that "in pursuing the measures, Republicans were taking their attention from the larger problem of creating jobs in the state."
Twice during the debate, Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer ordered people cleared from the gallery by police after visitors broke the rules by applauding speeches by Democrats.
The bills in the Wisconsin State Assembly come after action taken by other states regarding abortion restrictions. A week prior, Ohio lawmakers approved a budget that includes controversial amendments limiting federal funds for Planned Parenthood and banning public hospitals from having patient transfer agreements with abortion clinics. Mississippi's only abortion clinic was granted a temporary reprieve in April 2013 when a federal judge blocked enforcement of a state law that required doctors to have local hospital admitting privileges, similar to the one having just passed in Wisconsin. In March 2013, North Dakota adopted the nation's most restrictive law, effectively banning most abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, or about six weeks into pregnancy. Also in March, Arkansas Republicans passed a law that bans most abortions after 12 weeks. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill in April that blocked tax breaks for abortion providers, banned sex-selective abortions and declared life begins at fertilization.
The three bills on domestic violence approved by the Assembly were passed on voice votes and now go to the Senate. The legislation would:
- Allow prosecutors to present evidence of past domestic violence incidents at trial.
- Establish statewide training standards for law enforcement officers in handling domestic violence.
- Require officers to connect victims with advocates who can help them come up with a safety plan.
- Require officers to complete reports and forward them to the district attorney every time they respond to a potential domestic violence situation, even if they do not make an arrest.
- Define stalking as a type of domestic abuse.
- Prevent temporary restraining orders from expiring if a new judge is assigned to review them.