Local Lawmakers React to Wisconsin Assembly Approving 20-week Abortion Ban

By Adam Fox, WJFW Channel 12 Rhinelander


MADISON - The state Assembly has passed a bill banning non-emergency abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The Republican-controlled chamber approved the bill 61-34 Thursday. The Senate passed the measure in June.

The bill now goes to Gov. Scott Walker, who has said he will sign it into law.

Under the proposal, doctors who perform a non-emergency abortion after 20 weeks could receive up to $10,000 in fines and 3½ years in prison. The bill doesn't provide exceptions for pregnancies resulting from sexual assault or incest.

"This is not your place," Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) said. "This is an extremely personal medical decision. This is not your life. This is not your body. This is not your family. This is not your medical degree."

The bill's Republican supporters argue fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, however, says evidence suggests fetuses can't feel pain until the third trimester begins at 27 weeks.

But some lawmakers, such as Rep. Dave Heaton (R-Wausau), say they heard testimony that disputed that evidence. 

"Given that dispute, given that disagreement, if you have any doubt, air on the side of showing mercy toward that little unborn child," Heaton said. 

Democrats, such as Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison), believe the measure attacks women's rights and choices.

"And what this bill does is say for those women who get horrible news at a 20-week ultrasound, the only way you're going to get that compassionate care that you need is to leave the state of Wisconsin."

But supporters of the bill said doctors aren't always right when it comes to after-birth conditions for a child.  


"Mr. Speaker, medicine is not black and white," Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin) said. "Doctors cannot always say for sure what is going to happen in any situation."

Legal experts expect a federal court fight over the bill. 

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, constitutional law experts from across the political spectrum say in previous rulings, the U.S. Supreme Court has left lower federal courts with no leeway to uphold a law of this kind.

State statistics show that 89 of the 6,462 abortions in Wisconsin in 2013 were performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.