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State Lawmakers Listen to Heated Debate on Abortion Bill

Justin Kern, flickr

Thousands of workers in Wisconsin could soon find their health insurance plans dropping an item: abortion or contraception.

Republican leaders are pushing a bill to prohibit abortion coverage in public employee plans.

The measure would also exempt religious employers from having to cover contraception.

Activists on both sides packed into the hearing room before the Assembly Committee on Health Wednesday. The first person members heard testify was Republican Rep. Andre Jacque of De Pere.

He authored the bill. Jacque believes public workers should have to pay out-of-pocket for abortion coverage.

“That is the intent of this bill is that elective abortions which I don’t consider to be health care. You’re talking about the death of one human life and the injury to another,” Jacque says.

Jacque says his bill makes exceptions for rape, incest or life of the mother.

Julaine Appling says dropping abortion coverage from public worker plans would save taxpayer money. She heads the pro-life group, Wisconsin Family Action.

“Quite frankly we need to protect taxpayers in line with the other ways that we do in this state from having to pay for abortion related activities through our group Insurance Board plans that are written for state entities whether it’s at the school board level or county level or state level,” Appling says.

A couple Democrats on the committee blasted the plan, including Rep. Sandy Pasch of Shorewood. She says the legislation would strip women of a right and hinder the well-being of others.

“You’re limiting women’s access to a safe, legal, authorized treatment, abortion and now you also want to limit women’s access to contraception, which is a basic part of women’s health care,” Pasch says.

The bill’s supporters are plopping themselves into the physician’s office, according to Nicole Safar. She works for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.

“I think the reason a woman uses birth control is not really up for debate in the Legislature. A woman and her doctor should decide why she’s going to use birth control. It’s not for bills to be written about. These are personal and medical decisions,” Safar says.

Safar says women may put off health care decisions if they have to pay. The Assembly Committee on Health did not vote on the bill Wednesday. Supporters just introduced it last week.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.