Posted by Harriet Rowan on June 14, 2013

Senator Mary LazichIn ten short days, Wisconsin Republicans steamrolled a radical abortion bill through the state legislature to mandate ultrasounds and close abortion clinics, despite passionate opposition from Democratic Assemblywomen. The debate had many dramatic moments and video of the Senate President furiously gaveling down the opposition made national news.

The Wisconsin bill was offered by State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) a major opponent of a woman's right to choose who during the Senate debate made the shocking claim "These abortions became popular in the '60s. It was almost the thing to do. You needed to get one of them to be a woman."

Personal, Emotional Speeches Elicit Tears on Assembly Floor

SB 206, like the controversial Virginia bill that passed last year, would legally require doctors to perform an ultrasound on women seeking abortions at least 24 hours prior to the procedure, and require the doctor to describe the features of the fetus to the woman before going forward with the abortion.

"To force a physician to recite a scripted oral description of the findings if the pregnant woman declines is abusive. The proposed requirements do not make abortion safer for women, but do create unnecessary bureaucratic barriers and add both emotional and financial stress to an already difficult decision," said the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in a statement.

While the bill does not specify that the mandatory ultrasound be transvaginal, medical professionals testified that in the first trimester (when most abortions take place), it can be difficult to detect a heartbeat with an abdominal ultrasound, thus making an invasive transvaginal ultrasound mandatory. Many lawmakers and citizens expressed concern about the adverse psychological impact of a mandatory transvaginal ultrasound, particularly for women who are seeking an abortion after being the victim of a rape or after learning that their pregnancy is not viable.

Wendi Kent showing opposition to SB 206Rep. Sandy Pope told a tearful story of having to make the decision to terminate an unsuccessful pregnancy, and ended, her voice shaking, by looking across the aisle and saying "some decisions do not belong to you. You can't have them. You just can't. You can't hurt people this way... what you're doing is cruel, absolutely cruel."

Rep. Chris Taylor and Rep. Dianne Hesselbein both shared stories about the painful experience of being pregnant with twins, only to find out that one of the twins was not going to survive, and having to repeatedly view ultrasounds with images of their healthy unborn child along with the child that would not survive.

The bill states that a woman who is the victim of rape or incest is exempt from the mandatory ultrasound, but only if she reported the incident to the police. One in seven women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime and an overwhelming 81 percent of sexual assaults go unreported.

Rep. Mandy Wright described being raped when she was 8 years old by her cousin, but the sensitive situation was not reported to the police. She said even many of her friends did not know the story. Republicans nonetheless rejected an amendment to eliminate the reporting requirement.

Rep. Katrina Shankland expressed in a frustrated tone "instead of having women at the table, you have us on the menu."

Bill Would Close Planned Parenthood Clinics

SB 206 also contains a provision requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic, an onerous provision for clinics located in less-populated areas of this mostly rural state. Opponents see the provision as a blatant attempt to close a Planned Parenthood facility in Appleton, the only abortion clinic in Wisconsin outside of Madison and Milwaukee. Similar admitting privileges requirements were recently passed in Mississippi and Alabama. In Mississippi the bill would have closed the state's only abortion clinic, and both bills are currently being challenged in court.

On the same day SB 206 passed, two other bills addressing women's reproductive health were passed through the Assembly, largely overshadowed by the response to the mandatory ultrasound bill. AB 216, prohibiting Wisconsin's state health program from covering abortions and allowing religious organizations to deny contraception coverage, and AB 217 prohibiting sex-selective abortions both passed on party line votes.

Republicans Gavel Down Debate and Reject All Amendments

The Senate debate on Wednesday was marked by many dramatic moments, including a near-hysterical outburst by Senate President Mike Ellis as the vote was taken. Ellis is considered a moderate on many issues, yet may face a Tea Party primary in his reelection in 2014.

In the Assembly, thirteen amendments offered by Democrats had to be formulated quickly, with only a day between the Senate's passage of the bill and the Assembly taking it up. Most were simple additional requirements or exemptions.

In addition to the amendment ensuring that no woman would be physically forced to have an ultrasound, Democrats proposed an amendment requiring that ultrasound technicians be properly trained, that a licensed doctor read the ultrasound, that the mandated ultrasounds be covered by health insurance, a requirement of informed consent for patients, an exception for women whose fetuses have characteristics incompatible with life, and an exception for women who simply state that they have been victims of rape or incest.

Many of these amendments were introduced to address issues that Democrats felt were overlooked in the rush to pass the bill. Veteran Representative Fred Kessler said "this is the most loosely written bill I've ever seen." The Republican majority nonetheless voted unanimously to table all thirteen amendments.

Protesters Share Personal Stories

Observers covering their mouths in protest (source: Leslie Peterson)Because the bill was rushed through the legislature -- introduced on June 4, passing the Senate on June 12 and the Assembly on June 13 -- opponents didn't have much time to hear about the bill, let alone provide input or coordinate opposition. The bill had its one and only public hearing less than 48 hours after it was introduced.

Talia Froulkis quickly organized a noon rally outside the Capitol after hearing the bill passed the Senate, "I was livid," she said. "I decided to do this because I am a victim of rape, I'm a survivor of rape, and I've had to seek an abortion in my past because of that rape. If I had to have a transvaginal ultrasound I'm sure I would have felt too violated and traumatized to actually go through with the abortion that I needed because I was 16."

In addition to the rally outside, others participated in a silent protest inside the Assembly gallery. Wendi Kent, a mother who gave birth to her third daughter less than two weeks ago, came to the Capitol with her infant in her arms and duct tape over her own mouth to represent how women were being silenced.

"Legislators are making decisions that hurt me, my daughters and all other Wisconsin women. We are being silenced. We are being ignored," she said.

When debate in the Assembly began at 1pm a few dozen people sat in the gallery, many of them with tape over their mouths. They were quickly told by the Sergeant-at-Arms that they were breaking the rules of the gallery, and had to remove the tape from their mouths. Many removed the tape only to place their hands over their mouths instead.

Governor Scott Walker has indicated that he is eager to sign SB 206 into law.

"I don't have any problem with ultrasound," he told the Associated Press. "I think most people think ultrasounds are just fine."

Comments

In the article she claims abortions were popular in the 60's. Abortions were ILLEGAL in the 60's and women were dying from hack jobs. Wake up. Abortions are down because we have provided our daughters with birth control options which many were not available when we were their ages.

You are right about everything you said. I know, I was there during the time of illegal, not just hard to get, abortions. The anti-abortion issues that never stop are being funded by wealthy white men, many of them old, and the Catholic church who want to eliminate women from the workforce and from decision making. This group feels threatened by women's power and any possibility of making money. They continue to trap women and their children in poverty. We have got to join forces an stop this oppression. It is a huge waste of time and money on both sides of the argument. Let's move beyond this nonsense. There are so many other things that really need our attention.
Please don't vote for support anti-choice candidates. More women in government will help in most cases. Not in Michelle Bachmann's though. She's just crazy.

The only reason all this debate is even alive is that it's been long enough - and memories are either old or people have died! - to remember the horrors of pre Roe v Wade... Many young people, both male & female, were woefully uninformed about sex and birth control - the climate was just "wait until marriage" and there was no discussion. I had a friend who got pregnant as a freshman in college, when she had 2 mixed drinks at a frat party (the first time she ever drank alcohol). She had no idea she can't handle alcohol and passed out cold, at which point 3 boys carried her off to another room, gang-raped her, and left her. She had no idea what had happened - had to hear it from others at the party - and didn't realize she was pregnant when she began getting sick. She didn't even know HOW someone got pregnant, and had never done more than kiss one boy. The one clinic visit that identified her pregnancy was the only medical visit check she got; she wore tight jeans and big sweatshirts, and went to her classes. She was so innocent and ignorant she tried to abort the baby herself - by doing jumping jacks until she was exhausted, by running up and down the mountain to the giant "M" representing the town, and by stuffing cotton balls up her vagina to "suffocate the baby". Eventually, after school let out for the summer (at which time she was 8 mo's pregnant but didn't show as such) her parents found out about her condition. She wanted to know options to possibly keep the baby, since she was unavoidably having it, but in the climate of the times she was shipped off to an unwed mothers' home in Spokane, WA, and her baby was taken away and adopted out. Yeah, folks, she enjoyed her sojourn into 60's freedom! Give me a break! This is not a step forward, but a draconian step back into times of deep ignorance and cruelty.

This smiling moron is a DISGRACE to her gender. The Republicans keep insisting that they are going to re-brand themselves and win a larger share of the electorate in 2016??
DREAM ON. You have just alienated the women's vote for your entire state, don't you get that?? Of course you don't. And the nitwit who introduced this bill had better enjoy the short time she has left in office, because she just voted herself out.
UN-F**CKING-BELIEVABLE.

It is embarrassing that a person, unfortunately a clearly ignorant--I hate to say it--woman can get elected to a position of such national power in our country. I Thought Wisconson was better than this.

It can be difficult to detect a heartbeat with an abdominal ultrasound, thus making an invasive transvaginal ultrasound mandatory. Many lawmakers and citizens expressed concern about the adverse psychological impact of a mandatory transvaginal ultrasound, particularly for women who are seeking an abortion after being the victim of a rape or after learning that their pregnancy is not viable.

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Odd

I have no opinion one way or the other with abortion so I usually keep my 2 cents out of it, but I have to ask, how can they call this ultrasound "invasive"? When it comes to abortion, is an ultrasound the real invasive part here? They also seem to be missing the ones who will be verified when they get the ultrasound and find out something is wrong and they're making the right choice. I don't see why it's such a big deal.

I see you've never had a transvaginal ultrasound. Trust me... sticking a 8" long plastic apparatus up your vagina, having to sit there with your legs spread in front of a stranger, and having it shoved around this way and that for 15 or more minutes is pretty damned invasive. And humiliating.

Somehow, thinking a transvaginal ultrasound is no big deal doesn't seem very consistent with not having an opinion about abortion.

There's I-agree-but-I'm-a-bit-concerned trolling and there's do-some-research trolling. Now I think we've got a what's-the-big-deal troll.

My beliefs on abortion are my own and as long as someone else is not trying to force their religion on me I respect their beliefs as well. A traditional ultrasound on the abdomen if fine. However a transvaginal ultrasound is very invasive. They basically push a big shaft into you as far as it will go and then to have the doctor describe the fetus to you would be tramatic to the point of sexual assult

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