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Wis. Assembly Sends 20-Week Abortion Ban to Governor

July 10, 2015 — The Wisconsin Assembly on Thursday voted 61-34 to approve a bill (S 179) that would ban abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, Reuters reports.

The state Senate approved the bill in June. A spokesperson for Gov. Scott Walker (R) has said the governor will sign the measure (O'Brien, Reuters, 7/9).

Bill Details

Current state law bans abortion after fetal viability, which is estimated to be at about 24 weeks.

The legislation is based on the unfounded notion that a fetus can feel pain at that point of development. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said there is no legitimate scientific evidence showing that fetuses are capable of feeling pain at 20 weeks.

Physicians who violate the ban could face felony charges, fines of up to $10,000 and potential jail time of up to three years and six months. In addition, a woman who received an abortion after 20 weeks could sue the physician who performed the abortion for damages. The man involved in the pregnancy also would be allowed to sue the physician, except in cases in which the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.

Further, the bill would require physicians to tell women the probable post-fertilization age of the fetus and estimate the probability of the fetus surviving outside of the womb. It would also require doctors to tell women that perinatal hospice care is available for infants who are expected to live short lives. State law already requires physicians to tell women seeking abortions the fetus' likely gestational age in writing and orally (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/10).

According to the AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, the measure permits physicians to perform abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy if a woman likely will experience permanent injuries or die within 24 hours. The bill does not include exceptions for instances of rape or incest (Richmond, AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 7/9).

Implications

According to the Guttmacher Institute, the bill, if signed, will make Wisconsin the 13th state with a 20-week ban.

However, in May, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a 20-week abortion ban in Idaho was unconstitutional (Reuters, 7/9). Similar bans have been blocked in Arizona and Georgia, while a federal appeals court in May ruled that a 12-week ban in Arkansas also was unconstitutional (AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 7/9).