Roundups Law and Policy

Legislative Lowlights: Wisconsin Republicans Ramp Up Attack on Abortion Rights

Brie Shea

Meanwhile, Republicans in states across the United States are ramming through legislation based on a dangerous anti-choice myth.

Rewire.News tracks anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ legislation as it works its way through state legislatures. Here’s an overview of the bills we’re watching.

The Tennessee General Assembly passed a measure that would make it the seventh state with a “trigger law” on the books criminalizing abortion if Roe v. Wade falls; myth-based “born-alive” and abortion “reversal” bills are on the move in several state legislatures; Montana lawmakers passed a ban on abortion at 20 weeks; and Republicans in Wisconsin introduced a handful of anti-choice restrictions.

Alabama

The house health committee approved HB 314 last Wednesday, a bill to make abortion and attempted abortion felony offenses. Except in cases in which abortion is necessary to prevent a serious health risk to the pregnant person, performing an abortion would be a Class A felony—punishable by ten years to life in prison. An attempted abortion would be a Class C felony—punishable by one to ten years in prison. The measure doesn’t include any exceptions for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest. Supporters of the measure hope it will spark a legal challenge to Roe v. Wade.

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The measure now heads to the full state house for consideration.

Florida

The house passed HB 1335 last Wednesday, a bill that would require pregnant minors to get a parent’s consent for abortion. Current state law requires only parental notification. The measure would make it a felony for a physician to perform an abortion on a minor without the written consent of a parent or guardian. Consent would not be required in cases of medical emergency or if the minor obtains a court order bypassing the parental notification and consent requirements. Two Democratic lawmakers joined Republicans to pass the measure in a 69-44 vote: state Reps. James Bush (D-Miami) and Kimberly Daniels (D-Jacksonville).

The bill now heads to the state senate for consideration.

Louisiana

The house civil law committee advanced HB 425 last Tuesday, a measure known as the “Love Life Amendment.” The proposal asks Louisiana voters to approve a constitutional amendment that says in order “to protect human life,” nothing in the state constitution secures the right to abortion or requires funding of abortion. HB 425 is similar to an amendment approved by voters last year in West Virginia. Similar ballot measure proposals regarding abortion funding are being considered in Iowa and Oklahoma.

The bill has over 60 sponsors, and its primary sponsor is state Rep. Katrina R. Jackson (D-Monroe). At least 11 other Democrats are signed on as cosponsors:

The measure is scheduled for a floor debate in the state house on April 24.

On the other side of the chamber, the state senate committee on health and welfare approved SB 221, which would require abortion providers to give their patients certain information about their doctor prior to the performance of an abortion. The bill claims that state outpatient abortion facilities “actively work to conceal the identities and misconduct of abortion providers.” Any past disciplinary actions or license suspensions would need to be disclosed to a patient seeking abortion care.

The measure’s third reading and final passage in the senate is scheduled for April 23.

Montana

The Montana legislature passed two anti-choice measures last week: one banning abortion at 20 weeks and a “born-alive” abortion measure. Except in cases of medical emergency, HB 500 would prohibit physicians from performing or inducing an abortion without first determining the probable post-fertilization age of the fetus. It would be a felony—punishable by up to five years in prison—to perform an abortion once a fetus has been determined to be at 20 weeks’ post-fertilization. The bill includes junk science that claims a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks post-fertilization. State Sen. Mike Phillips (D-Bozeman) joined Republicans on Thursday to pass the measure in a 31-19 vote.

In a 54-43 vote, Republicans in the state house granted final passage to SB 354, which pushes anti-choice propaganda and would make it a felony to deny “medically appropriate and reasonable medical care” to infants born after a failed abortion. The “Born-Alive Infant Protection Act” copies legislation drafted by Americans United for Life and is based on the myth that infants are “born alive” after abortions—and that doctors then murder them.

Both measures now head to Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock for approval.

North Carolina

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed SB 359 on Thursday, a measure that would have required doctors and nurses to protect and care for children born alive after a failed abortion. The legislation is based on a popular anti-choice myth about abortion care. Health-care practitioners who fail to provide the appropriate degree of care to a child “born alive” would have faced felony charges and up to 13 years in prison. Additionally, any person who intentionally performs or attempts to perform an overt act that kills a child “born alive” would have been punished for murder. The state senate passed the measure last Monday in a 28-19 vote, and the state house passed it the following day by a 65-46 vote. In a letter announcing his veto, Cooper issued the following statement:

Laws already protect newborn babies and this bill is an unnecessary interference between doctors and their patients. This needless legislation would criminalize doctors and other healthcare providers for a practice that simply does not exist.

To override the veto, state lawmakers would need the approval of three-fifths of each chamber. North Carolina Republicans lost their legislative supermajority in the 2018 midterms.

Oklahoma

Lawmakers in Oklahoma passed SB 614 last week, a bill that would require abortion providers to inform their patients it may be possible to “reverse” the effects of a medication abortion. The measure would require doctors to give a pregnant person a written notice containing “reversal” information after the first dose of abortion-inducing drugs. A person who provides a medication abortion without providing the so-called reversal information would face felony charges. One Democratic representative joined Republicans last Tuesday to pass the measure in a 74-24 house vote: state Rep. Matt Meredith (D-Tahlequah). Legislators in six states (Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah) have enacted laws regarding the experimental treatment. Lawmakers in Kansas passed a similar measure that Gov. Laura Kelly (D) vetoed on Monday.

SB 614 now heads to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt for signature.

Tennessee

The Republican-held Tennessee legislature on Monday passed SB 1257, which would trigger a statewide abortion ban if the U.S. Constitution is amended to grant states the authority to prohibit abortion or if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. The “Human Life Protection Act” would make it a Class C felony—punishable by up to 15 years in prison—to perform or attempt to perform an abortion. The measure includes an exception for when an abortion is necessary to prevent the pregnant person’s death or serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.

A Democratic lawmaker’s efforts to include exceptions for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest failed. The state senate passed the measure in a 26-5 vote. Democratic state Reps. John DeBerry (Memphis) and John Mark Windle (Livingston) joined state house Republicans to pass the measure in a 69-24 vote. Six states (Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Dakota, and North Dakota) already have “trigger laws” on the books that would criminalize abortion if conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court strike down Roe v. Wade. The bans in Arkansas and Kentucky were signed into law this year. Similar GOP-backed measures are being considered in Georgia, Missouri, and Texas.

The measure now heads to Republican Gov. Bill Lee for signature.

Texas

The state house passed HB 16 last Wednesday, a bill that would require physicians to provide medically appropriate and reasonable life-sustaining medical care and treatment to any child born alive after an abortion. A physician who fails to provide the appropriate medical treatment to a child born alive after an abortion would be charged with a third-degree felony—punishable by two to ten years in prison—and be liable for a civil penalty of at least $100,000. Fourteen Democratic lawmakers joined Republicans to pass the measure in a 94-2 vote. A nearly identical measure passed the state senate earlier this month.

The bill heads to the state senate for consideration.

That same day, the state house committee on state affairs approved SB 22, which would prohibit taxpayer dollars at both the state and local level from being used to fund abortion facilities and affiliates. The bill would prohibit state and local governments from contracting with agencies that provide abortion care. The measure—which passed the state senate this month—was reported out of committee by 7-4 vote.

The bill now heads to the full house floor for debate.

Wisconsin

Republicans in the Wisconsin State Assembly introduced a handful of anti-choice measures last week. AB 179 would require any health-care provider present when an attempted abortion results in a child born alive to provide the appropriate degree of care to preserve the health and life of the child. The measure would make it a felony—punishable by up to six years in prison—to fail to provide the necessary degree of care or ensure that the child is transferred to a hospital. The bill would also make intentionally causing the death of a child born alive as a result of an abortion or an attempted abortion a class A felony—punishable by life imprisonment. This legislation, like similar bills in legislatures nationwide, is based on propaganda popularized by Republicans and anti-choice organizations.

AB 180 would require physicians to inform their patients that it might be possible to reverse the effects of a medication abortion, a concept that hasn’t been recognized by major medical organizations. The bill would require a hospital, clinic, or other facility in which an induced abortion is performed to report additional information in its required annual report to the state department of health services, including the pregnant person’s reason for seeking an induced abortion. Current state law requires the department of health services to publish an annual demographic summary of the reported information without revealing the identity of a patient, provider, or facility. This measure would eliminate the anonymity of the hospital, clinic, or other facility in which the abortion was performed.

Lawmakers on Friday introduced a pair of bills that would ban abortion providers and their affiliates from participating in the state’s Medicaid program. AB 181 would prohibit the state department of health services from certifying, and require it to decertify, the following entities as providers in the state’s Medical Assistance program: any abortion provider or affiliate of an abortion provider that has ever applied for federal family planning funds as a nonprofit private entity. AB 183 would do the same, but it includes an exception for hospitals that perform abortion care when necessary to preserve the health or life of the pregnant person, or when the pregnancy is a result of sexual assault or incest and has been reported to law enforcement.

AB 182 would prohibit a person from performing an abortion if they know the patient is seeking the abortion due to the sex, race, color, national origin, or ancestry of the fetus—a policy based on the racist assumption that certain populations exhibit a preference for sons over daughters. The measure would prohibit an abortion if the patient is seeking it because the fetus has or may have Down syndrome or any other disability—a policy used to pit reproductive rights against the rights of those with disabilities. The bill is similar to a 2016 Indiana law signed by then-Gov. Mike Pence (R) that’s been blocked in federal courts. A petition to review the case is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. A similar measure in Kentucky this year was signed into law, but has since been blocked.

All measures are pending in the state house health committee. Gov. Tony Evers (D), who ran in 2018 on a pro-choice platform, is likely to veto any anti-choice bills that make it through Wisconsin’s legislature.

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