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Bill would allow relatives to file suit over abortions

Lawmakers will consider bills Wednesday that would prohibit using abortions to avoid having a baby of a certain sex, bar a state health insurance plan from covering abortions in most circumstances and exempt insurers hired by religious organizations from having to cover contraceptives.

Assembly Bill 217, sponsored by state Rep. Steve Kestell, R-Elkhart Lake, would mainly apply to relatives of a person who has had an abortion to avoid having a baby of a certain sex. The proposed legislation would allow relatives to seek compensatory damages in a lawsuit filed against the doctor who performed the abortion.

If those damages were awarded, the doctor would then have to pay exemplary damages of $10,000 and the plaintiffs’ attorney fees. The doctor could also be enjoined from performing similar abortions and could have to pay penalties as high as $100,000 for violating such injunctions.

The state Assembly Committee on Health will hold a hearing on that bill at 10 a.m. Wednesday, along with Assembly Bill 216, which would prohibit the state’s Group Insurance Board, which provides insurance for retired employees in the Wisconsin Retirement System, from contracting for health-insurance plans that cover abortion services, except in certain circumstances.

Sponsored by state Rep. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, Bill 216 would exempt insurers from a requirement that they offer contraceptive coverage to nonprofit religious organizations that are opposed, on religious grounds, to the use of contraceptives.

The committee will also hear discussion of Assembly Bill 120, a so-called “I’m sorry” bill that would prevent statements of compassion, condolence or sympathy from being used against doctors and nurses in court. Critics have noted the bill would extend the protection to statements of fault, liability or responsibility.

A similar bill was put forward in the previous legislative session and was passed by the Assembly but didn’t receive a hearing in the Senate.


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