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Assembly panel advances abortion ban measure with rape, incest exception

by Erik Gunn, Wisconsin Examiner
January 23, 2024

With bipartisan opposition, the Assembly health committee passed legislation Tuesday that would ban abortion after 14 weeks and hold a statewide referendum on the restriction. 

The committee also amended the bill to include an exception to the 14-week legal limit in cases of sexual assault or incest.

AB-975 was the subject of a public hearing on Monday after being introduced Friday. It has been opposed by advocates on both sides — supporters of abortion and reproductive rights as well as opponents of legal abortion. Gov. Tony Evers has already declared he will veto the measure.

The absence of an exception in cases of rape and incest was among the targets of criticism that the bill received during Monday’s hearing before the Assembly Committee on Health, Aging and Long-term Care.

Rep. Donna Rozar (R-Marshfield) introduced the amendment adding the exception at Tuesday’s committee meeting, which was held to vote on the measure.

Both the amendment and the amended bill passed the committee 9-7. Reps. Rick Gundrum (R-Slinger) and Gae Magnafici (R-Dresser) joined all five Democrats on the committee in rejecting the amendment as well as the bill.

The bill has been scheduled on the calendar for Thursday’s Assembly floor session.

On another closely watched health-related bill, the committee took no action to advance legislation that would offer greater independence to registered nurses with advanced professional credentials.

AB-154 and its Senate companion, SB-145, would create a separate license for an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), who after a preliminary period of years would be able to practice without a physician collaborator. While the concept has bipartisan support, organizations representing medical doctors have opposed the bill.

While Wisconsin licenses nurse practitioners who work in primary care, state law requires them to have a formal collaboration relationship with a doctor. Advocates for the bill say that has needlessly held back expansion of the number of professionals providing primary care, especially in communities where doctors are in short supply or nonexistent.

Gov. Tony Evers vetoed similar legislation in 2022, saying concerns raised by medical doctors were not resolved during the development of the legislation.

In the current session, the Senate approved its version of the bill on a 23-9 vote with two Democrats joining 21 Republicans in favor and one Republican joining eight Democrats in opposition.

On Tuesday, the Assembly committee tied on a vote to recommend the Senate bill, sending it on without a recommendation. Assembly leaders have scheduled it for Thursday’s floor session.

Rep. Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) has proposed an amendment to the legislation requiring additional supervision before a nurse qualifies for independent practice, a change she said would meet objections Evers raised in 2022. The committee did not vote on the amendment Tuesday, however. 

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Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

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