Yesterday, Wisconsin’s Republican-held Senate passed a bill that could result in steep punishments for abortion providers. Under the legislation, in the rare case that a baby is born as a result of a failed abortion, the medical team must provide lifesaving care. Democrats say that’s already required by law.
Wisconsin’s Republicans are once again championing a so-called “born alive” bill. Such a bill would require a health care provider to give a baby life-saving care if that baby is born as the result of a failed abortion. And if doctors don’t, they can be prosecuted for the death, fined up to 10 thousand dollars, or spend six years in prison. An “intentional death” could result in a life sentence –that’s the same sentencing as first-degree intentional homicide.
Under the bill, the abortion patient can’t be charged but she *can* press charges against her doctor. During the last legislative session, the bill passed in both the senate and assembly. But Governor Tony Evers vetoed it, alongside 3 other anti-abortion laws.
Roger Roth, a Republican from Appleton and the bill’s author, calls the legislation an “anti-murder” bill. “I can say with confidence that no matter where you fall on the spectrum of pro-life to support abortion, all of us should want a newborn to receive life-saving care. Who can oppose that?” he asks. “According the CDC, over the last decade there was upwards of 588 infant deaths after a child was born alive…to say that this doesn’t happen is just plain false.”
Roth is pointing to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that investigates infant death cases where the death certificate mentions termination of pregnancy. Because that can include both spontaneous or natural loss of pregnancy and medical abortions, the CDC data notes that only about a quarter of those 588 deaths can definitively be classified as involving an abortion.
Nationally, more than 600 thousand abortions were provided in 20-14–the last year covered in the data Roth referenced.
Senator Kelda Roys, a Democrat from Madison, says the bill is built on lies. “Doctors already have an obligation, both legal and ethical, to provide appropriate medical care,” she explains. “To suggest otherwise is offensive.”
Roys points out other ways the legislature can help mothers and children, including investing in family leave, expanding BadgerCare, addressing racial disparities, and wearing a mask. “I came to this body, day after day, month after month, while I was pregnant, and you all knew that and yet many of the people in this room supporting this bill refused to wear a mask even though as a pregnant person I was 15 times more likely to die of Covid,” she says. “Yet so many of my colleagues across the aisle wouldn’t even do the simple courtesy of wearing a mask. That is why it is really hard to take seriously the stated purpose of this bill.”
Roys calls the bill a coordinated effort to undermine reproductive rights. She points to Rebecca Kleefisch, a GOP candidate running for governor in 2022. Kleefisch, a former lieutenant governor in Scott Walker’s administration, told a conservative talk radio host earlier this month that if elected, she would sign a heartbeat bill similar to Texas’s new law banning abortions after six week of pregnancy – before most people know they are pregnant.
Wisconsin’s bill passed 1912 along party lines, yesterday. It now heads to the state assembly where it already has 28 Republican co-sponsors It faces a likely veto from Governor Tony Evers.
In Wisconsin, several other restrictions on abortion already exist. Among other things, patients seeking an abortion must receive counseling, and undergo an ultrasound and have a provider show and describe the image. Abortions after twenty weeks are only permitted in cases that threaten the mother’s life.
This winter, the US Supreme Court will hear a case that has the potential to overrule Roe v Wade, the landmark ruling legalizing abortion.