Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Legislature reintroduced its ‘Born Alive’ abortion bill last Tuesday. The bill would make it so health care providers could face felony or homicide charges if they fail to care for babies who are born alive after an attempted abortion.
Abortion rights groups have denounced the bill, stating health care providers are already “ethically bound” to keep babies alive if they’re alive after an attempted abortion. Also, it is illegal to commit infanticide, making the reintroduced bill redundant under U.S. law.
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According to University of Wisconsin professor and political behavior expert Michael Wagner, the vagueness of the law is purposeful.
“Many abortion rights advocates note that it is not clear what problem the law is trying to solve,” Wagner said. “Often these kinds of bills can put health care providers at risk of legal sanction if they do not follow what are some vague guidelines regarding the care they would be legally required to provide.”
According to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission, groups opposing the bill include the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin: the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin Inc. and the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health Inc.
Almost 150 of 765,000 infants in the U.S. died after being born alive after an attempted abortion between 2003 and 2014, according to the CDC.
Wagner said this may be a political strategy rather than an effort at a lasting change to Wisconsin abortion laws.
“What the bill aims to address virtually never happens,” Wagner said. “A possible purpose for this bill might be what political scientists call ‘symbolic representation,’ passing a law that doesn’t change anything but serves to energize voters who oppose legal abortion.”
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Though Gov. Tony Evers vetoed the Born Alive bill, the next gubernatorial election is a little over a year away. According to Wagner, it will likely be a close race.
Republican Rebecca Kleefisch announced her official bid for the 2022 gubernatorial election this week. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Kleefisch already said should she win the election, she will sign a bill banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected.