Wis. Gov. Walker Backs Fast-Tracked Antiabortion Bill

June 13, 2013 — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Tuesday said he would sign a multi-faceted antiabortion-rights bill (SB 206) that is quickly advancing through the Republican-controlled Legislature, the AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press reports (AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 6/11).

The Senate on Wednesday approved the bill in a 17-15 vote, with all Republicans supporting it and all Democrats voting against it. Republicans cut off debate to block Democrats from commenting on the bill, which the Assembly is expected to take up on Thursday (Bauer, AP/Sheboygan Press, 6/12).

The bill would require a woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound before the procedure. It also would require the doctor or individual performing the ultrasound to try to detect the fetal heartbeat, as well as describe the size, location and number of fetuses and any body parts or organs that are visible. The woman would not be required to look at the ultrasound images or heartbeat monitor, and the bill would not apply in cases of rape, incest or emergencies.

In addition, the bill would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital no more than 30 miles away.

Key Arguments

In debate in a committee on Monday, supporters of the bill said it would help reduce the number of abortions performed in the state and provide women with additional information (Defour, Wisconsin State Journal, 6/11).

State Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D), who opposes the bill, said it is intended to "tell women they can't think or make decision[s] on their own," while state Sen. Tim Cullen (D) noted that the measure would interfere in physicians' medical decisions (AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 6/11).

Teri Huyck, president of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, called the bill "a tactic to end abortion access," adding that the admitting privileges requirement would force one of Planned Parenthood's four clinics that provide abortions to close (Wisconsin State Journal, 6/11).

Meanwhile, Republicans dismissed claims that they are fast-tracking abortion-related bills.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) said, "These are issues that have been out there for quite some time," adding, "They're not speeding through without opportunity for public discussion" (AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 6/11).