The Wisconsin state Senate confirmed the seating of three appointees to state medical boards Thursday, despite opposition from anti-abortionists and Republicans.
Both retired businessman Roger Axtell and Quarles & Brady Partner Mike Weiden will maintain their existing seats on the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority Board after a 17-15 vote by the Senate.
Prior to the vote, anti-abortion advocates held a press conference in front of the Senate building in an attempt to block their appointment, as the two supported the approval of a second-trimester abortion clinic at the Madison Surgery Center, which is staged to begin operation soon.
William Evans, a Madison area physician who lead the conference, argued that the anti-abortion community felt its voice was not paid due attention in the public meeting that was held in February by the Authority Board and the board members appeared “lackadaisical and disinterested.”
“Those who sit on public boards still have to be able to listen with both ears and look with both eyes and not come in with such a strong preset agenda that they discount one side over the other and fail to listen,” Evans said. “That was one point we were trying to make today.”
Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, echoed similar feelings.
“I think the people on the UW Hospital Board bizarrely not only don’t have respect for human life, they don’t have respect for people who have respect for human life,” he said.
Board Chair David Walsh contrarily said they did in fact listen to both sides of the debate during the February meeting.
He said as chairman of the board, he insisted they give as much time as possible to both sides of the debate.
“We listened, and we made a decision,” Walsh said.
Carrie Lynch, spokesperson for Democratic Majority Leader Russ Decker, D-Weston, similarly believed anti-abortion activists were, in fact, granted every opportunity available to voice their opinion.
“They had the opportunity to speak at the committee hearing and they had people speak to their issue on the floor today, and everyone has the right to call their legislator. I’m not sure what else they wanted to have happen,” Lynch said.
She went on to add that special consideration was made for their cause in the process of the vote.
“In fact, we took the special step of separating [Axtell and Weiden] out,” Lynch said. “We usually vote en masse for these appointments, but because there were a few members on the Republican side of the aisle that wanted the votes separated out, we separated them out for them.”
UW Hospitals spokesperson Lisa Brunette said the issue of abortion is notoriously divisive throughout the nation.
“I think that it is the single most polarizing issue in the country. People feel very strongly about it on both sides,” she said.
While recognizing that morality and religion often play a large role in the passion people bring to the subject of abortion, Patrick Boyle, vice chair of the Authority Board, argued that it is first and foremost a difference of opinion based on science, and the line was drawn in Roe v. Wade.
“I think it’s clear that the United States Supreme Court has said that a woman has a fundamental, constitutional right to control their bodies,” Walsh said.
Peggy Hamill, state director of Pro-Life Wisconsin, responded by saying that many government-endorsed civil rights stances, such as systematized racism, have been rescinded in America’s history and the ruling of Roe v. Wade should be given similar consideration.
Despite the strong polarization over the issue of abortion, Lynch said in reality, Thursday’s Senate hearing was not about abortion.
“This vote had nothing to do with a particular legislators’ or persons’ view on abortion,” she said. “The vote was only about whether or not they were qualified to serve on the board that they were being asked to serve on.”