Wisconsin Republicans introduce bill that clarifies procedures that don’t qualify as abortion

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Republicans released a package of legislation Tuesday that would tweak the state’s abortion ban by specifying medical procedures to save a mother’s life that don’t qualify as abortion.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is almost certain to veto the measure should it pass the Republican-controlled Legislature. He has already promised to veto a different Republican-backed bill that would allow abortions in the case of rape or incest, saying he supports restoring abortion rights to what they were in Wisconsin before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year.

That ruling reactivated a Wisconsin 1849 state law banning nearly all abortions.

Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul and a group of physicians, with the support of Evers, have sued to overturn the ban, arguing a 1985 law that permits abortion up to the point of viability trumps it. The new liberal-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court is expected to decide the case.

State Sen. Romaine Quinn and Reps. Gae Magnafici and Donna Rozar released a package of four bills Tuesday dealing with abortion.

The first measure would clarify that medical procedures designed to save a pregnant woman’s life but could harm the unborn child don’t qualify as abortion as long as the procedures aren’t performed with the intent of killing the child and the doctor tries to preserve the mother and the child’s lives. The bill lists inducing labor early, cesarean sections, removal of a miscarriage or ectopic or molar pregnancies as examples of acceptable procedures.

“These bills offer an important clarification and reinforce the sanctity of life,” Quinn, Magnafici and Rozar wrote in a memo to their fellow lawmakers seeking cosponsors.

The doctors suing to overturn Wisconsin’s abortion ban have argued that provisions in the ban allowing abortions to save a mother’s life are vague. The bill would weaken that argument by clarifying what procedures are acceptable, making it all the more like Evers would veto the proposal.

Another bill in the package would increase the tax exemption that parents can claim for each dependent from $700 to $1,000 and extend eligibility to parents of unborn children. Parents could claim the exemption as soon as an ultrasound detects a heartbeat in the unborn child.

A third proposal would require the state Department of Health Services to hand pro-life group Choose Life Wisconsin, Inc., a $1 million grant annually. The organization would have to use the money to provide grants of up to $50,000 to pregnancy resource centers. Such centers provide crisis pregnancy counseling, support for unwed mothers and care for mothers and babies.

The last bill in the package would allocate $5 million in state grants for organizations that help people adopt children.

Pro-Life Wisconsin and Wisconsin Family Action, two of the state’s anti-abortion groups, praised the proposals. The bills would “maintain and strengthen our current law abortion ban and provide the necessary resources for both moms and babies to survive and thrive in a post-Roe Wisconsin,” said Matt Sande, Pro-Life Wisconsin’s legislative director in a statement.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said that “overall, these bills have merit as they seek to clarify existing language.” But he added that constituents also want to carve out exceptions in the abortion ban allowing abortions in cases of rape and incest.

Vos and Assembly Republicans introduced a bill earlier this year that would legalize abortions in the case of rape or incest but the proposal has gone nowhere under the Evers veto threat. Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu has said the Senate won’t take that bill up.

LeMahieu didn’t immediately respond to an email asking if he supports the Quinn-Magnafici-Rozar package.

This story has been updated to correct that the first bill does not increase abortion penalties.