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Wisconsin Bill to Ban Abortions after 20 Weeks Headed to Gov. Walker


Wisconsin is one signature away from having a new abortion law – Gov. Walker’s signature.

In June, the state Senate advanced an abortion bill. On Thursday, the Assembly approved it. All 61 Republicans voted in favor; all 34 Democrats, against.

The measure would ban non-emergency abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The bill does not provide exceptions for pregnancies resulting from sexual assault or incest. And, doctors who perform a non-emergency abortion after 20 weeks could get up to 3.5 years in prison.

Republican Rep. Joe Sanfelippo of West Allis co-sponsored the measure. He insists abortions after 20 weeks subject a fetus to excruciating pain and the state has a compelling interest to protect children.

“And, whether those children are born and unborn, at the point that they are feeling pain, purposefully doing something to inflict that pain is inhumane, it’s callous and it’s brutal,” Sanfelippo says.

Another supporter is Republican Rep. Joan Ballweg. She acknowledges that medical experts who’ve spoken at the public hearing on the measure, have differing opinions about when a fetus feels pain.

“But, shouldn’t we defer or fall on the side of the possibility of preventing a living being from pain? And, ultimately shouldn’t we be speaking on behalf of the unborn and their right to life?” Ballweg asks.

Democrats blasted the bill. Rep. Mandela Barnes of Milwaukee says the city has experienced an explosion of gun violence – and more than a few victims have been children. He questions what the state has been doing to protect them.

“We’re not serious about life after the umbilical cord is cut. There’s no commitment to life after breath. You want to protect life, let’s get some of these guns off the streets. How many children have to be killed? But this is somehow our priority. Let’s put the bill back in the cave it came from, let’s talk about real solutions and let’s protect the lives we already have in this state. Don’t confuse pre-life with pro-life because I’m pro-life and I’m tired of people getting killed,” Barnes says.

Fellow Democrat Therese Berceau of Madison says what bothers her is the timing of the bill’s passage. It happens just a few days before Gov. Walker announces his presidential bid.

“I find it offensive that we play with women’s health, with women’s uteruses for political reasons and our governor is the worst offender. Our governor, what a guy. He’s a crazy opportunist, we know it,” Berceau says.

Gov. Walker has said he will sign the bill. It’s unclear whether he’ll do so before Monday, when he’s expected to formally announce in Waukesha, his run for the White House.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.
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