Republican state legislators proposed bill would limit abortion services to public sector employees, which has raised concerns from women’s reproductive health advocates.

Currently, the state Group Insurance Board provides abortion services at any time during a pregnancy. The bill, which Sen. David Craig, R-Vernon, and Rep. André Jacque, R-De Pere, introduced the first week of February, will prevent GIB from contracting or paying for abortion services, Jacque said in a co-sponsorship memo.

If passed, the 250,000 public sector employees GIB covers will need to pay for their own abortion services, unless it is a case of rape or incest, or if the mother’s life is in danger.

Wisconsin law prohibits Medicaid and Affordable Care Act from covering the cost of abortion services, Matt Sande, Pro-Life Wisconsin legislative director, said.

State Rep. Ron Tusler, R-Harrison, said the bill will provide “equity” so that “taxpayers are not funding abortions for any group of people in Wisconsin.” 

“[This bill] goes in line with the same type of thought — if we’re not allowing people on Medicare to use insurance to purchase abortions, why would we allow government employees to do the same thing?” Tusler said.

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Tusler said the bill is different from past legislation defunding clinic abortion services in that this bill is not stopping anyone from getting an abortion. It is simply removing abortion from insurance plans and stopping tax money from going toward abortions. People can still get abortions but they will not be insured.

But state Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, said in a statement the bill interferes with women’s access to reproductive health care and “decisions that should be made by a woman and her doctor.” She said the bill “throw[s] women under the bus.”

“Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for putting women’s health and safety in jeopardy,” Subeck said.

A similar bill was introduced in 2013 before dying in the state Senate. But this time Tusler said he expects the bill to pass because of wider support in the Legislature.

Anti-abortion groups Pro-Life Wisconsin and Right to Life Wisconsin expressed their support for the bill and the idea that taxpayer dollars should not be funding abortions. Sande said though abortion is a legal right, it is not the government’s responsibility to fund it. 

“If you object to abortion, you should not have your taxpayer dollars going to such a practice,” Chelsea Shields, Wisconsin Right to Life legislative director, said.

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In an email to The Badger Herald, Nicole Safar, director of government relations for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, called blocking women from safe, legal abortions “shameful.”

Legislators should focus on their job creation promises and stop working to end insurance coverage for important medical care, Safar said.

“Abortion is a deeply personal medical decision that should be made by a woman in consultation with her doctor, her family and her faith,” Safar said.

Both Shields and Sande agree pro-life taxpayers shouldn’t have to compromise their conscience by funding abortion services. Sande said in addition to protecting people’s conscience rights Pro-Life Wisconsin wants to see the state move forward with encouraging alternatives to abortion, like easing adoption processes.

Pro-Life Wisconsin and Wisconsin Right to Life have asked legislators to sign on as co-sponsors to the bill. Tusler said the campaign to co-sponsor the bill has been “strong.”

“I feel there’s strong public support and a strong co-sponsorship,” Sande said. “And you will see action on this bill.”

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The bill is currently moving through the state Assembly.