Wis. Assembly Passes Bills Limiting Abortion Coverage, Mandating Abstinence Education

March 14, 2012 — The Wisconsin Assembly this week passed bills that would restrict insurance coverage of abortion services and require schools to teach that abstinence is the only reliable method of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, the AP/Racine Journal Times reports.

Lawmakers voted 61-34 on Tuesday evening to approve a bill (AB 154) that would ban health plans operating in the state's health insurance exchanges from offering abortion coverage. The federal health reform law (PL 111-148) requires states to set up exchanges by 2014 to allow residents to purchase polices. Although the law already requires plans that offer abortion coverage to segregate payments for the coverage from other benefits, states can opt to ban abortion coverage altogether.

The bill has already been approved by the Senate and now heads to Gov. Scott Walker (R) for consideration. The bill would allow insurance coverage of abortion in cases of rape, incest or when the woman's health is at risk.

Sex Education Bill

The Assembly also voted 60-34 to pass the sex education bill (AB 337), which would undermine a law Democrats passed last year (Bauer, AP/Racine Journal Times, 3/14). That law requires schools that chose to teach sex education to teach about contraception as part of a multi-faceted approach (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/20).

The bill was approved by the Senate in November and now goes to Walker.

Antiabortion Bill Pending

Meanwhile, a pending Assembly bill (AB 371) would require a doctor to first physically examine a woman and remain in the same room as her when providing medication abortion drugs. Supporters of the measure said it will ensure doctors are not using telemedicine for consultations. Opponents have noted that telemedicine is not used in abortion care in Wisconsin and suggested that the true intent of the measure is to limit access to the procedure.

Under the bill, a woman also would have to have a private consultation with a doctor at least 24 hours before abortion care to ensure that she had not been coerced (AP/Racine Journal Times, 3/14).