February 14, 2016

Ultrasound bill poised to pass Senate

Legislation which would require doctors perform or arrange ultrasounds for women seeing abortions in Wisconsin is poised for passage in the state Senate, after Democrats in the chamber used a procedural move to block a final vote on Tuesday. The Senate is due back on the floor at 8:00 a.m. Governor Scott Walker has already said he’ll sign the bill if passes the legislature.

The bill is from state Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), who has argued that such procedures ought to be part of the “standard of care” prior to any abortion. “It’s relatively routine to have that ultrasound, and this bill assures that every woman has that standard of care,” said Lazich. “There’s no reason a woman should have a lesser standard of care.”

Democrats, who offered numerous amendments to the measure, argued that politicians in the Senate are in no position to determine appropriate standards of care, and that the real rationale for the bill is to throw up further roadblocks for women seeking abortions. The measure establishes penalties for doctors who fail to perform ultrasounds or refer their patients to clinics where they can receive them.

“The intent is to tell a woman and her doctor they’re not capable of making a decision on their own,” said Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton). “We should be state Senators. We shouldn’t be doctors, and we shouldn’t be God,” said Senator Tim Cullen (D-Janesville).

“Instead of pretending that we’re that we’re trying to provide a higher level of care, just say “I don’t agree with abortion, and I want to put up all the roadblocks I can between a woman and her right to make that choice,'” said Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee).

The debate over the amendments featured plenty of frank talk – a virtual political vagina monologue – as Democrats repeatedly made reference to women’s anatomy. “Let’s trust women to make choices for themselves, and for the love of Wisconsin, let’s stay out of their vaginas,” said Minority Leader Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee).

“I went to my I-phone to look up the various methods of abortion” said Lazich, the bill’s author. “It describes the manual extraction, the vacuum extraction, or the machine vacuum extraction.” All of those, Lazich said, potentially more risky and painful than an ultrasound. Republicans did allow a Democrat amendment requiring free clinics to offer transabdominal ultrasounds as well as the more invasive transvaginal procedure.

Opponents of this bill (SB 206) and other GOP measures designed to restrict access to abortion rallied on the Capitol steps as debate got underway Tuesday. The bill also requires doctors performing abortions in Wisconsin to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of where the abortion is to be performed. Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin said that provision would require it to close its clinic in the Fox Valley.

UPDATE: The Senate passed the bill Wednesday morning on a party line vote. It now heads to the Assembly.

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