Wis. Antiabortion-Rights Bills Postponed for This Year

November 12, 2013 — Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) on Friday delayed floor consideration of two antiabortion-rights bills (AB 216; AB 217) until at least early next year, Wisconsin Public Radio News reports (Quirmbach, Wisconsin Public Radio News, 11/8).

The state Senate Health Committee advanced the measures on Thursday, which were expected to be debated by the full Senate on Tuesday, the last scheduled day in session this year. The measures had passed the state Assembly earlier this year, and Gov. Scott Walker (R) had said he would sign them into law.

One measure would have prohibited the use of public funds for abortion coverage in public employees' health plans and allowed religious organizations to refuse to cover contraception in their health plans unless used for reasons other than preventing pregnancy (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/8). The other measure would have permitted the mother, father or grandparents of "an unborn child [who] is aborted" to sue the abortion provider if the gender of the fetus was the reason for the procedure.

Details of Delay

Fitzgerald's office did not include either bill on a tentative calendar for the Senate's Tuesday schedule. His chief of staff, Dan Romportl, in an email accompanying the schedule said it "is subject to change between now and Monday afternoon" (Vanegeren, Madison Capital Times, 11/9).

However, Romportl added that the Senate would "like to end on a noncontroversial note" and will spend its final day of the session focused on bills aimed at job creation and improving the economy. He said the abortion-related bills could come up for a vote next year (AP/Madison Capital Times, 11/8).

Reaction From Supporters, Opponents

Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin and the National Organization for Women's Madison Chapter had scheduled a protest against the bills for Tuesday. NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin Executive Director Jenni Dye said that the protest likely would be canceled in light of the scheduling decision (Madison Capital Times, 11/9).

Meanwhile, Julaine Appling, president of the antiabortion group Wisconsin Family Action, said she is "very disappointed" the measures will not be considered this year. She added, "I fully expect to see them on the agenda early next year" (AP/Madison Capital Times, 11/8).

Gov. Walker Addresses Abortion-Rights Issue

In related news, Walker on Thursday was asked about Democrats bringing up his history of supporting antiabortion-rights legislation as he campaigns for re-election. "The Democrats seem to be obsessed with talking about [abortion]," he said, adding that he is "obsessed with talking about jobs and getting an economy going and helping continue to keep the budget balanced here in the state of Wisconsin."

Walker's record on abortion rights is expected to be a "sizable campaign issue" over the next year, according to Wisconsin Public Radio News (Wisconsin Public Radio News, 11/8).