News Abortion

Illinois Democrats Use “Poison-Pill” to Foil Passage of Forced Ultrasound Bill

Robin Marty

A myriad of amendments have been attached to the proposal in an attempt to kill the entire bill.

Democrats in the Illinois House have found an ingenious way to foil passage of a forced ultrasound bill.

Poison-pill amendments.

A poison-pill, an amendment or rule in an agreement usually meant to negate an entire deal, is often used in contract negotiations.  Now lawmakers are using the tactic on the legislative floor.

According to WJBC.com:

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The amendments approved in committee would: tighten regulations on who can perform ultrasounds; require disclosure of the cost of the ultrasound; extend the ultrasound requirement to dozens of other medical procedures; tie insurance coverage of erectile dysfunction medication to that of birth control pills; and require counseling for men seeking treatment for erectile dysfunction.

The original sponsor of the bill, State Rep. Joe Lyons, needless to say is unhappy with what he calls these “hostile amendments.” 

“If you want to kill my bill, kill it on the House floor,” said Lyons.

“Men’s Health” protest laws have been popping up all over the country, requiring exams for erectile drugs, vasectomy disclosures and so on, but this appears to be the first time a proposal has been used to actively attack anti-choice legislation.  Here’s hoping it’s the first of many.

News Abortion

Fast-Tracked Forced Ultrasound and TRAP Bill Passes Wisconsin Assembly, Heads to Governor

Robin Marty

Despite passionate testimony against it, multiple amendments, and public protest in the state capitol building, Wisconsin's AB 227 passed as written with a 56-39 vote Thursday evening. The legislation will now head to Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who has promised to sign.

Despite passionate testimony against it, multiple amendments, and public protest in the state capitol building, Wisconsin’s AB 227 passed as written with a 56-39 vote Thursday evening. AB 227 is the state assembly version of SB 206, a fast-tracked forced ultrasound bill with a targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) provision that would likely close the only northern Wisconsin abortion provider. The legislation will now head to Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who has promised to sign.

Reproductive rights supporters attempted to blunt the impact of the bill with a series of amendments that would have removed a hospital admitting privileges requirement from the legislation and softened the ultrasound requirement by allowing for rape and fetal anomaly exceptions. All amendments failed.

Anti-choice politicians have been fast-tracking abortion and birth control restriction bills in an effort to ensure their passage before too many members of the public have time to learn about the legislation, much less organize against it. But organize they did. During the legislative debate Thursday, a number of activists gathered on the balcony of the state assembly with tape over their mouths. As mother and activist Wendi Kent explained on Facebook:

I will be there with tape over my mouth to represent the fact that they are making my medical decisions for me without my consent or input. They are speaking as if they represent me when they do not. They are making decisions that hurt me, my daughters and all other Wisconsin women. We are being silenced. We are being ignored. We are being treated like mindless wombs.

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After being told that the tape constituted “political display,” the group removed it and put their hands over their mouths instead. One member was ejected for clapping during a speech on the floor by an assembly member who opposed one of the restrictive new laws; she was removed from the chamber in handcuffs. Kent remained, her 10-day-old daughter strapped to her chest, and silently watched the testimony stretch into the evening.

“This is nothing new,” Kent told Rewire, referring to the actions security personnel took to dissipate the protesters. “We’ve been dealing with rules made up on the spot and selective enforcement for years now. I don’t ever feel confident that our representatives across the aisle are affected by our actions. When they make jokes and laugh during these types of debates and bills, why should I think otherwise? I do, however, think that it encourages our Democratic representatives to continue to fight as hard as they do, even in cases of certain loss, as this one.”

“I would have liked to have seen more people in attendance when the bill was finally ruled upon,” said Kent, noting that by 8:30 p.m., when the vote came down, many of the activists had to leave the gallery. “I wish we had the entire gallery filled at that point to yell ‘Shame!’ at them, but it’s difficult to get people to listen to such awfulness for so many hours.”

The testimony on the floor did grow tense and emotional, as multiple state legislators shared their own abortion stories. “Women don’t want to go out and have abortions. These are not choices that we like,” said state Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts (D-Middleton) after telling the story of an abortion that she underwent after learning she was likely to miscarry her pregnancy. “Some choices don’t belong to you.”

“If so many women on the assembly floor have personal stories, think about how many in Wisconsin do,” NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin reminded legislators on Twitter prior to the final vote.

Those personal stories, both told and untold, are in stark contrast to comments made Wednesday by state Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), the bill’s sponsor. “These abortions became popular in the ’60s. It was almost the thing to do,” Lazich said in speech prior to the senate passage of the bill, which happened without debate. “You needed to get one of them to be a woman.”

SB 206 was just one of many anti-choice bills to be passed Thursday. Bills that also made it through the assembly include those that would ban supposed gender-selection abortions, allow religious employers to refuse to cover contraception in their insurance plans, and ban abortion coverage in all public employee insurance plans.

“While the public is focused on the budget, this Legislature is rushing to pass nearly every abortion or contraceptive-related restriction or regulation they did not already enact last session,” Jenni Dye, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin, said in a statement. “Perhaps anti-choice legislators missed the memo in November 2012. Voters are tired of divisive attacks and want legislators to stop trying to send women backwards and instead work together on issues like jobs, education, and healthcare.”

She continued, “If legislators think that voters will forget what happened today before November 2014, they are mistaken. Women and our allies will remember.”

News Abortion

Sponsors of Tennessee Forced Ultrasound Bill Turn to Constitutional Amendment Instead

Robin Marty

Women in the state of Tennessee will not be required to have an ultrasound before an abortion, but they may have more than that to deal with in 2014.

Two state lawmakers who proposed that women undergo a forced ultrasound prior to an abortion have decided not to push their bill this session so they can focus on other issues. No, not education or jobs. They want to pass a constitutional amendment with more restrictions instead.

According to the Associated Press, the two sponsors of a mandatory ultrasound bill, Sen. Jim Tracy and Rep. Rick Womick will pull their bill and spend more time on a constitutional amendment that will require “a 48-hour waiting period for abortions and for all but first-term abortions to be performed in hospitals.”

“This constitutional resolution is the cornerstone of future legislation to protect life in Tennessee,” said Senator Tracy via statement. “We will be focusing all of our efforts on promoting its passage on the 2014 ballot.”

SJR 127 would offer “greater ability to enact abortion policy” according to the amendment’s sponsors, among which would be more “informed consent,” a longer waiting period, and more room for other restrictions, including “defining” exceptions for rape, incest, and health of a pregnant person.

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