After years of debate and recent technical holdups, a bill mandating that rape victims receive emergency contraception upon request passed its final legislative hurdle in the state Senate Thursday.
The Assembly also considered a bill to reword the state�s partial-birth abortion ban.
The bill that would require hospitals to give victims of sexual assault information on emergency contraception � often called Plan B � and to administer the drugs upon request passed in the Senate by a 25-6 vote Thursday.
Sara Finger, director of Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, said she was happy with the way the Senate voted.
�It is a historic vote and an incredible victory for women�s health in Wisconsin,� Finger said. �We�re ecstatic to know this long-overdue legislation can now be sent to the governor to be made into law after a long, six-year fight.It�s the first pro-women�s health piece of legislation to be passed in over a decade.�
According to Finger, more than two-thirds of Wisconsin hospitals do not unconditionally provide emergency contraception to rape victims.
Co-sponsor of the bill, Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, called the Assembly �irresponsible� in not getting the legislation to the Senate again sooner.
�Rape and incest victims shouldn�t be forced to go from hospital to hospital looking for treatment that they have a legal right to,� Taylor said in an e-mail to The Badger Herald. �The crime and its consequences are just too severe.�
Sen. Mary Lazich, R- New Berlin, was one of the six senators who voted against the bill.
�What this bill does is mandate that hospitals must administer emergency contraception,� Lazich said. �Hospitals in the state don�t need any more mandates from the state of Wisconsin.�
Other opponents of the legislation have argued the high dose of birth control in emergency contraception can amount to a �chemical abortion� in some cases and hospital workers who are morally opposed to the drug shouldn�t be forced to administer it.
Human trafficking bill expected to pass
As of press time, the Assembly had yet to vote on a measure defining and penalizing human trafficking is on its way to the governor�s desk to become law. The bill passed the Senate unanimously Tuesday and was expected to pass the Assembly.
The bill defines human trafficking as �recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining an individual without the consent of the individual,� making it a felony punishable with 25 years in prison, a fine of $100,000 or both.
Rep. Fred Kessler, D-Milwaukee, has called human trafficking a �form of slavery� and has been working on the legislation for two years.
�What we�re most concerned about is trafficking of people in employment situations and people who are otherwise compelled to be prostitutes,� Kessler said.
According to Kessler, a recent incident of trafficking in Brookfield and other recent cases spurred action on the legislation.
Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, was a major proponent of the legislation in the Senate and said the legislators know human trafficking does occur in Wisconsin.
Grothman added although there is federal legislation on the issue, �it�s important to have a separate state statute to have a tool for local district attorneys to be able to deal with it.�
� Beth Mueller contributed to this report.