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JEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald Photo

This is the third part in a series profiling members of the Wisconsin Legislature.

Since State Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, was elected to the state Assembly's 76th District, she has been an active advocate for women's reproductive rights, environmental protection and corporate taxation.

Berceau said she draws inspiration from standing up for her beliefs in the state Legislature and fighting for Wisconsin's consumers.

"I'm very concerned about the direction the country is going in terms of everything being done for special interests," Berceau said, expressing her concern over the integrity of lawmakers. "It seems like politicians are purposely trying to divide people for political gain."

Berceau questioned the "human decency" of a majority of today's politicians, adding partisan politics are ultimately hurting the state's consumers and need to be addressed by fair taxation legislation.

In addition to working toward fair taxation, Berceau has introduced Assembly Bill 508 which would force corporations like Wal-Mart to reimburse the state for not providing health care to its employees.

Berceau said she first became interested in serving Wisconsin's citizens when she noticed businesses leaving downtown Madison, more homeless without protection and violence on the Capitol Square.

Retiring Rep. Rebecca Young, D-Madison, prompted Berceau to run for state office, asking Berceau to take her vacant seat. In doing so, Berceau said she could work toward "turning these things around."

Berceau's work and experience have led to her interest in a number of issues besides consumer protection, namely her legislative advocacy for women's reproductive rights.

According to Kelda Helen Roys, executive director of National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League Pro-Choice Wisconsin, Berceau has been at the forefront of women's rights in the state.

"The government needs more people who are willing to stand up for women's rights and beliefs," Roys said. "[Berceau is] one of the most productive voices in our government today."

In order to help protect University of Wisconsin female students' access to birth control, Berceau authored Assembly Bill 795 which would require hospitals to provide information and emergency contraception to sexual assault victims.

"I'm working to turn around the assault on women's rights," Berceau said. "If women want the birth control pill, they should have access."

According to Berceau, AB 795 would also require school districts to provide human growth and development education to provide high school students with all the facts.

"[I wish] there were 99 more representatives just like Terese [Berceau] in the Assembly today," Roys said.

In addition to NARAL, other organizations like the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin have taken note of Berceau's work; the PPAWI presented Berceau with the Voices of Courage Award for Public Policy in 2005.

However, though some of Berceau's colleagues in the Assembly disagree with her political views, many admire her efforts in state government.

State Rep. Ann Nischke, R-Waukesha, said Berceau is passionate about her pro-choice advocacy the same way Nischke is passionate about being pro-life.

"Terese is in touch with her constituents," Nischke said, adding the beauty of state government is how opposing views can be represented. "I enjoy working with her even though [we] often disagree … she does an admirable job," Nischke added.

Berceau said she will stand strong in her effort to lead the government in protecting women's reproductive rights, adding she would "do this work with or without awards."

"The majority of elected officials are men … our bodies are ours and it's time we take control," Berceau said.