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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Abortion debate heats up at Capitol hearing

Wisconsin?s abortion debate takes center stage this week, as a Senate committee debated legislation in a packed and emotional hearing Wednesday and another abortion issue will get a vote in the Assembly today.

The Democrat-led Senate committee drew hundreds to a public hearing on repealing part of Wisconsin?s abortion ban, while the Republican-controlled Assembly will vote on clarifying the state?s partial-birth abortion law.

The Wisconsin Senate Committee on Health, Human Services, Insurance and Job Creation held a hearing overflowing with people from around the nation who came to give testimony about a bill to eliminate a statute that makes it a crime for any person to ?end the life of an unborn child.?


The statute defines separate penalties for the mother of the unborn child and the person performing the abortion.

The law was invalidated by the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, but remains in the state statutes. That section also conflicts with another part of the statute, which prohibits prosecuting any woman who obtains an abortion.

The bill?s authors Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, and Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, were on hand to give their testimony to the committee

?Wisconsin?s 150-year-old law remains in the books decades after it was found to be unconstitutional,? Miller said at the hearing. ?It is time for Wisconsin law to comply with the law of the land.?

According to Miller, Wisconsin is one of four states to retain anti-abortion statutes.

Groups like Wisconsin Right to Life hope to keep the law in case Roe v. Wade is ever overturned, according to Wisconsin Right to Life Legislative Director Susan Armacost. In that event, the current Wisconsin law would immediately prohibit people from performing abortions.

?It is cutting out the entire abortion law that would prohibit abortion,? Armacost said.

Berceau said she is concerned with the problems created by making abortion illegal.

?When abortion is illegal, women die. Abortion does not go away, instead it goes underground,? Berceau said. ?The only way to make sure that a woman is never prosecuted in Wisconsin for having an abortion is to remove 940.04 from our statutes.?

Much of the crowd, made up of all ages, groaned in disapproval throughout Berceau?s testimony, causing Sen. Carol Roessler, R-Oshkosh, to ask those in attendance to hold back their opinions until their time to speak.

Roessler said she thought some of Berceau?s testimony was inaccurate regarding a story of a rape victim in the 1960s and the lack of attention she received in the wake of the assault. Roessler did not think the same situation applies today.

?I feel very strongly about the truth in any bill that comes before us,? Roessler said.

Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, also expressed concern with repealing the law, saying that it reflected the will of the Legislature and the people of the time it was created.

?I think it is very, very important to keep this statute in place, and more importantly, when it comes to the issue of abortion, to err on the side of caution because once you take that life it can?t be reversed, it?s over,? Lazich said.

The other bill regarding abortion will be addressed Thursday when the State Assembly will vote on a bill that would change the state law on partial-birth abortions to be consistent with current federal law. It prohibits partial birth abortions unless it is to save the life of the mother.

Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, who was an author of the bill, said he expects it to pass.

According to Ott, having a state law matching the federal law that was deemed constitutional would ensure the state law is also constitutional.

?If you only have the federal law, then the violator has to be prosecuted in federal court,? Ott said. ?If you have a state law you can prosecute in state court, which would be a lot easier.?

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