September 11, 2015 — The Wisconsin Assembly's Criminal Justice Committee on Wednesday voted 7-4 to approve a bill (AB 305) that would ban fetal tissue research in the state, the AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
The bill now advances to the full state Assembly, which could consider the bill later this month. According to the AP/Star Tribune, it is unclear if the bill, pending approval, would pass the state Senate (Bauer, AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 9/9).
The fetal tissue ban was proposed by state Rep. Andre Jacque (R) in response to a series of misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin currently does not offer fetal tissue donation.
The videos, which depict Planned Parenthood staff discussing fetal tissue donation, were released by an antiabortion-rights group called the Center for Medical Progress. CMP secretly filmed the videos by meeting with Planned Parenthood staff while posing as buyers of fetal tissue.
Planned Parenthood has stated that the videos were heavily edited and that the filmed officials did not conduct any illegal activities. The organization said it does not profit from fetal tissue donations and only receives reimbursement for costs associated with such donations, which is legal. Meanwhile, supporters of Planned Parenthood said the videos are part of a decades-long campaign against the organization (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/12).
The bill would prohibit the sale or donation of fetal tissue procured since Jan. 1 of this year, as well as any research on the tissue. Researchers who violate the bill could receive up to six years in prison and up to $50,000 in fines.
The state Assembly Criminal Justice Committee passed the measure after adding an amendment that would allow researchers to continue using fetal tissue in their work that was obtained prior to Jan. 1. Meanwhile, the committee rejected another amendment, proposed by state Rep. Evan Goyke (D), that would have removed the bill's prohibition on research using fetal tissue.
According to the AP/Star Tribune, the University of Wisconsin on Wednesday reiterated its opposition to the measure. Marsha Mailick, vice chancellor for research and graduate education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said, "Stopping the clock by limiting research to cell lines developed prior to 2015 effectively tells many patients and their families still waiting for a cure that they are out of luck." She added that the measure "sends a chilling message to our scientists, to the biotechnology industry, and to our fellow citizens."
Meanwhile, opponents of the measure have said that the measure could face a court challenge if it becomes law. According to AP/Star Tribune, similar laws in Arizona, Illinois, Louisiana and Utah have been struck down as unconstitutionally vague by federal courts (AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 9/9).