Wisconsin Republican legislators have introduced a bill that would make it illegal to obtain an abortion if a “fetal heartbeat” is detected. The only exception to the rule would be if not having an abortion would put the pregnant person at risk of irreversible physical impairment or death.
Under the proposed bill, the Medical Examining Board must investigate any doctor accused of providing an abortion after embryonic electrical activity has been detected. People related to the embryo being aborted would also be able to sue the physician.
The proposed bill is similar to the Texas Heartbeat Act that went into effect Sept. 1. Doctors have said calling the electrical activity a “fetal heartbeat” is misleading, because what the ultrasound is picking up is a grouping of cells that flicker with regular electric activity — not an actual, functioning heart.
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Sen. Julian Bradley, R-Franklin, said in an email statement he wants Wisconsin to join the 13 states with bills similar to Texas’ heartbeat bill. But Sen. Kelda Roys, D-Madison, said that the proposed bill effectively criminalizes women’s reproductive cycles because most women won’t know they’re pregnant until after six weeks.
Roys also expressed concerns regarding the ability of family members to sue physicians.
“The idea that your half-nephew or your grand uncle should have the right to basically sue somebody who helps you obtain an abortion and end up getting paid is outrageous,” Roys said.
At six weeks into a pregnancy — the stage at which the electrical activity can be first detected — the cells growing in the uterus are not called a fetus, but an embryo, said Dr. Jennifer Kerns, an OB-GYN and associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco, in an interview with NPR.
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When physicians use the term “fetal heartbeat” to describe electrical activity after six weeks of pregnancy, they might be using it in the same way they use “stomach bug“— to describe the medical condition to a layperson, according to NPR.
Because it is all but certain Gov. Tony Evers will veto the the bill, Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, said the reason Wisconsin Republicans are attempting to pass it is to please their base ahead of the 2022 elections. University of Wisconsin experts have previously told The Badger Herald abortion issues will be a major talking point of the 2022 election
Roys said many people think women’s reproductive rights are safe as long as Roe v. Wade isn’t overturned, but the bill banning abortions once embryonic electronic activity is detected passed in a matter of months.