Wisconsin Legislative Preview: Sex Ed on Agenda, Abortion, Contraception Is Not

Robin Marty

Wisconsin has released a preview of bills the legislature will focus on, and abortion is not yet among them.

The new governor of Wisconsin is already making plans to begin reshaping state law and policy now that the governor’s mansion and both arms of the legislature are under Republican control.  To that end, Governor-elect Scott Walker will be calling a special session early in 2011 to get begin work on his most urgent priorities.

However, other than pushing for a return to abstinence-only sex education, it seems that those priorities will have little to do with rolling back the extensive gains that Wisconsin has made regarding reproductive health.

Via the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

The economy will dominate the state’s next legislative session, but other issues – such as requiring voters to show ID at the polls and allowing people to carry concealed guns – will also get increased attention with Republicans controlling all of state government.

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[Governor-elect Scott] Walker plans to call a special session on jobs in January, and after that the Legislature will turn its attention to a two-year budget that will face a shortfall of as much as $3.3 billion. Republicans have promised to fix it without raising taxes.

Senate Republican Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau has said the first bill introduced in his house will be the one on showing ID at the polls. Otherwise, lawmakers are putting all their focus on bills that will help the economy, and other bills likely won’t come up until later in the session, he said.

Sex ed. Starting this fall, schools that have sex education courses must ensure their classes are comprehensive and include age-appropriate information about birth control. That change meant school districts could no longer offer abstinence-only courses, though they could decide to drop sex ed altogether.

Republicans want to change the law to give local officials the ability to set the curriculum, as they could in the past.

Not included in the list of top issues?  Curbing embryonic stem-cell research, a topic that was hotly debated during the last weeks of the campaign.  Nor have they put up any proposals around free birth control for low-income women, including teen girls over the age of sixteen. 

At this point, other than sex education, which had been a very contentious battle in the state over the last few years with the introduction and approval of the Healthy Youth Act, rolling back reproductive health care appears to not be among the top priorities for Republican officials in the state. 

Perhaps the state of care in Wisconsin will not be as dire as we once imagined it would be.

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