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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.