Wisconsin Legislature to send abortion bills to governor, who plans to veto them

Trump often brings up "born alive" bills at his rallies, claiming doctors execute babies who survive abortions — remarks Wisconsin's governor called "blasphemy."
Image: Tony Evers
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers at the State Capitol in Madison, Wisc.onsin, on March 21, 2019.Steve Apps / Wisconsin State Journal via A

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By Associated Press

Wisconsin's Republican-controlled Legislature was poised Wednesday to send four anti-abortion bills to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who has vowed to veto all of them.

One bill up for final approval in the state Senate addresses the extremely rare occurrence in which a baby is born alive during an abortion attempt. It would impose criminal penalties on doctors who fail to give medical care to such babies.

Organizations representing obstetricians and gynecologists say existing laws already provide protections to every healthy newborn, whether born during a failed abortion or under other circumstances.

President Donald Trump touted Wisconsin's proposal during a visit to the state and mocked Evers for his promised veto.

Last month, the Assembly passed the bill and three others last month, which include measures to cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, prohibit abortions based on the fetus' race, sex or defects and require providers to tell women seeking abortions using the drug mifepristone that the process may be reversed after the first dose.

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The bills are up for final approval Wednesday in the Senate, where Republicans hold a 19-14 majority and Democrats don't have the votes to stop them. But none will become law once Evers follows through on his veto promise. Republicans don't have the votes to override him.

The moves in Wisconsin come as anti-abortion politicians and activists feel emboldened by the addition of conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. They hope federal courts will uphold laws that prohibit abortions before a fetus is viable outside the womb, the dividing line the high court set in the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

Louisiana , Georgia , Kentucky , Mississippi and Ohio have enacted bills barring abortion once there's a detectable fetal heartbeat, as early as the sixth week of pregnancy. Missouri's governor last month signed a bill approving an eight-week ban on abortion, with exceptions only for medical emergencies. Alabama has gone even further, outlawing virtually all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest. None of the bans has taken effect, and all are expected to face legal challenges.

The bills up for approval in Wisconsin don't go that far or attempt to further restrict the state's ban on abortions 20 weeks after fertilization.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded just 143 instances nationwide in which live births resulted from at least 9.3 million abortion attempts between 2003 and 2014. There is no comparable data in Wisconsin because state officials don't track it.

Wisconsin Right to Life, which supports the bill, said it hasn't heard of any cases in Wisconsin since the Wisconsin State Journal reported in 1982 that two babies survived abortion attempts in Madison and later died. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Wisconsin Medical Society have registered against the bill.

The bill's supporters say the measure would remove any gray areas in the law.

Evers and opponents say current criminal penalties would apply in cases where providers don't care for abortion survivors. Trump, during an April rally in Green Bay, said he was shocked Evers planned to veto the bill. Trump has made his support for "born alive" bills a staple of his rallies, accusing doctors of executing babies who survive a failed abortion.

Evers called those remarks "blasphemy."