Republicans introduce bill banning abortions after 20 weeks

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Non-emergency abortions performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy could be banned in Wisconsin under a Republican bill introduced Thursday.

Under the bill, doctors who perform an abortion after 20 weeks in non-emergency situations could be charged with a felony and subject to up to $10,000 in fines or 3½ years in prison. The bill doesn't provide an exception for pregnancies conceived from rape or incest.

Co-author Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, said the bill aims to prevent fetuses from feeling pain during an abortion procedure. "I believe we have a duty and a moral obligation to protect these children from the horrific procedures used to snuff out their lives," Kremer said in a statement.

While some doctors contend fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says evidence suggests that's not possible until the third trimester begins at 27 weeks.

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said in a statement the bill would restrict women's choices and could lead to complications.

"This bill will jeopardize women's safety and prevent health professionals from making life-saving medical decisions," Shilling said.

Ten states have passed such bans, based on a tally by the Guttmacher Institute, which depart from the standard of viability established by the Supreme Court's landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. That decision allowed states to limit abortions in cases where there's a chance the fetus could survive outside of the womb, generally considered to be 22 and 24 weeks.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said Thursday that he is anti-abortion and ran on an anti-abortion platform, but in some situations believes women should be able to terminate their pregnancies after 20 weeks.

"I have always taken exceptions to allow for rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is in danger, this bill has one of those exceptions," Vos said. "So we'll have to caucus to see if we want to amend the bill or not take it up at all."

Myranda Tanck, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Fitzgerald was reviewing the legislation Thursday.

Gov. Scott Walker said Thursday he supports the bill and hopes the Legislature could move forward with the abortion ban while it works on the budget. "I'm pro-life, but I think whether you're pro-life or not, after five months, when an unborn child can feel pain ... the majority of people believe that's a realistic requirement," Walker told reporters in Milwaukee.

According to the most recent information from the Department of Health Services, roughly 1 percent of abortions in Wisconsin in 2013 occurred after the 20-week mark — 89 of nearly 6,500 abortions performed that year.

Sara Finger, executive director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health, Thursday said her organization opposed the bill.

"Not a single credible medical organization supports these types of abortion bans because they know that these decisions are best made between a woman and her doctor, not by politicians," Finger said in a statement.


Associated Press writer Carrie Antlfinger contributed to this report from Milwaukee.


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