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State Rep. Robin Vos, R-Burlington, participated in a vote nearly along party lines Tuesday to send a bill prohibiting abortion funding through health care exchanges to Gov. Scott Walker.[/media-credit]

In a late night session, Assembly lawmakers approved bills establishing abstinence as the preferred choice of birth control in public school sex education and prohibiting abortion under health care exchanges.

Assembly lawmakers passed 60-34 a bill requiring school districts to present abstinence as the preferred choice of birth control and emphasizing it as the only reliable way to prevent pregnancy and avoid sexually transmitted diseases. The bill passed the Senate last year and will now head to Gov. Scott Walker to be signed into law.

Assistant Assembly Minority Leader Sandy Pasch, D-Whitefish Bay, said the bill would repeal programs she said are currently reducing the pregnancy rate for teen mothers. She said teen pregnancy leads to higher high school dropout rates. 

 “Repealing the Healthy Youth Act is an outrage,” Pasch said. “By [supporting this bill] you are doing nothing to help support and educate the youth of Wisconsin. In fact, you’re doing just the opposite.”

Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond Du Lac, said the bill would give school districts flexibility to meet local demands and does not stop school districts from providing current sex education programs. 

“School boards have the responsibility to make sure they are going to teach human growth and development in a way that the voters in their district want them to teach it,” Thiesfeldt said. 

Lawmakers also passed on a near party-line vote, 61-34, a bill prohibiting the coverage of abortions through health care exchanges created under the federal health care reform law. The bill will also head to Walker for signing. 

Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, questioned why government should have a role in women’s health care decisions when it does not have an “invasive” relationship with men’s.

“Why should government only care and regulate a woman’s reproductive choice”? Berceau asked. 

Berceau said no reason exists for government to be involved in this decision and accused Republican legislators of pushing social agendas when they should be focused on creating jobs.

Democratic legislators called the bill part of a “war on women.” Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, called comments against the bill “disingenuous.” 

“We have heard that this is an attack on women, a war on women’s rights,” Kleefisch said. “But what about the war on the rights of the women who have not been born”?

Rep. Pat Strachota, R-West Bend, said the bill does not prohibit women from receiving an abortion but clarifies health care exchanges should not include coverage of abortions or have tax dollars paying for them so they can be consistent under state law.

A bill prohibiting the use of bribes to induce someone to sign or not sign a recall petition passed unanimously. The Senate also approved lifting the cap on Family Care enrollment.

At the beginning of the session, Ho-Chunk President Jon Greendeer delivered the State of the Tribes to legislators. Greendeer called for more dialogue between state leaders and tribes.

The Assembly also passed a resolution honoring Wisconsin musicians Bon Iver and the band’s lead musician Justin Vernon on their 2012 Grammy Awards, and approved a bill adding cougar damage to a list of wildlife damage payments. Rep. Amy Vruwink, D-Milladore, requested a roll call vote. 

“You want a roll call? Because I was just going to say that everyone in favor say meow,” Speaker Pro Temp Bill Kramer, R-Waukesha, said. After the roll call, Kramer noted, “That’s 97 meows and zero noes.”

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