A bill requiring doctors to provide
emergency contraception to victims of rape stopped one step short of
Gov. Jim Doyle’s desk late Tuesday night.

If passed, the legislation would
require a hospital to provide a rape victim with information about
emergency contraception, to inform her of the option to receive the
contraception and to provide it immediately if she requests it. The
Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault calls the bill
"Compassionate Care for Rape Victims," while Pro-Life Wisconsin
dubs it the "Chemical Abortion Hospital Mandate."

Rep. Terry Musser, R-Black River Falls,
and Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, introduced the legislation among
others in the Assembly.

The bill also stipulates that "no
hospital must provide emergency contraception to a victim who is
pregnant, as indicated by a test for pregnancy."

Debate on the legislation lasted well
into the night, but a final vote was stalled until the Legislature's
next meeting — Jan 15, 2008. However, the substitute amendment —
essentially confirming the original bill's objectives, passed the
Republican-controlled Assembly in a 56-41 vote.

"The bill won't fully pass
[Tuesday], but it's clear there are and will be enough votes to
pass it the next time we meet," said Rep. Scott Suder,
R-Abbotsford.

In the course of the debate, Republican
representatives attempted to attach a few amendments to the original
bill, including one that would make an exception for hospitals and
hospital employees who have religious or moral objections to the use
of emergency contraception.

Matt Sande, legislative director for
Pro-Life Wisconsin, said the amendment would defend conscience rights
of doctors and organizations, or the right to refrain from
administering treatment that violates religious or moral beliefs.

"Legislators can't pick and choose
which conscience rights to uphold and protect," Sande said. "These
conscience rights are expressly protected in our Wisconsin
Constitution; the bill is patently unconstitutional."

Sande also called the bill "bad
medicine" because it forces a doctor to "dispense a powerful drug
upon a patient's request — immediately upon her request"
without checks for whether the medicine will produce any negative
reactions within the patient, due to issues like pre-existing
conditions.

In a previous interview with The Badger
Herald, Julie Laundrie, spokesperson for Sen. Jon Erpenbach,
D-Middleton, said Erpenbach supports the bill because he "believes
victims of rape should be treated respectfully and have all the
information about their options for them to make informed decisions
after they have been victim of a crime."

Another amendment shot down at the
Capitol Tuesday would have allowed doctors to dispense emergency
contraception to victims younger than 16 years old "only if the
hospital first makes a reasonable attempt to notify one of the
victim's parents."

Both the Assembly and Senate started
their special session Tuesday as requested by Doyle Nov. 30, but
neither house addressed any legislation during the sessions regarding
public funding of Wisconsin Supreme Court elections or any of Doyle's
other requested initiatives.

One step closer to "Wisconsin
Christmas Tree"

In a vote of 84-12, the Assembly also
approved a bill introduced by Rep. Marlin Schneider, D-Wisconsin
Rapids, to rename the Capitol's Holiday Tree a "Christmas Tree."

The Senate did not vote on the joint
resolution, as Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, D-Weston, told The
Associated Press the bill will never be brought up in the Senate.