By Steve Schuster
The Republican controlled Wisconsin Legislature unveiled a measure Wednesday creating an exception to the state’s 1849 abortion ban in cases of rape and incest.
The proposed bill has received criticism from Wisconsin Democrats.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said, “I won’t sign a bill that leaves Wisconsin women with fewer rights and freedoms than they had before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe.”
On March 16, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul tweeted, “It’s well past time for the legislature to listen to Wisconsinites and restore reproductive freedom in Wisconsin.”
“The bill introduced by Republicans today is nothing more than political theater,” said Representative Lisa Subeck, a Madison Democrat.
“Abortion is health care. And decisions about when and if to terminate a pregnancy should be made by women, their families, and their physicians without interference by politicians. To restore our freedom to make our own reproductive health decisions, we must not stop short of full repeal of Wisconsin’s 1849-era criminal abortion ban,” Subeck added.
The Republican bill was introduced as a pending lawsuit backed by Evers is attempting to overturn the 1849 ban entirely. Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul filed the lawsuit a few days after Roe v. Wade was overturned. The state argues that a 1985 law allowing abortions up to the point of a fetus’ viability supersedes Wisconsin’s 174-year-old ban on nearly all abortions, The Associated Press reported.
Under current Wisconsin law, it is a felony to perform most abortions. The Republican bill would allow for abortions only in the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy for victims of rape or incest. The measure does not limit termination of pregnancies causing “a serious risk of death of the pregnant woman or of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the woman.”
At Tuesday’s Milwaukee Press Club event, the Wisconsin Law Journal asked Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Dan Kelly why Republicans typically don’t regulate guns, the environment or railway safety, but now want to regulate abortion.
In response, Kelly said, “It’s a great question and I think there are some folks that you can ask about it who would probably give you a pretty good answer, but out of all the folks that might give you good answer, it doesn’t include me, you need to talk to some legislators about that.”
In past years, Republicans have been known as the “small government party.” However, in more recent times, that has evolved and now the GOP has been involved in regulation of not just abortion, but also rights pertaining to what’s taught in classrooms, transgender and LGBTQ rights.
“The only thing Republicans don’t regulate these days are what could hurt big corporations,” said a Wisconsin government attorney, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Citing reproductive rights, on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton formally endorsed Kelly’s opponent, Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz.
Clinton’s tweet to her 31.5 million followers said:
Some states are considering making abortion a constitutional right.
The Wisconsin Law Journal has reached out Republican Speaker Robin Vos multiple times via phone calls and email, but he did not respond.
On March 15, WISN reported that Wisconsin’s top Senate Republicans rejected Vos’ proposed measure.
The Associated Press also contributed to this report.
This story has been updated.