Wisconsin Republicans set to pass bill banning abortions after 14 weeks of pregnancy

Jan 25, 2024, 7:23 AM

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republicans who control the Wisconsin state Assembly were poised Thursday to pass a bill that would call for a binding statewide referendum to ban abortion after 14 weeks of pregnancy.

Current Wisconsin law prohibits abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The bill’s supporters say closing the window after 14 weeks could save more fetuses from death. The proposal would set up a statewide referendum during April’s election asking voters whether the 14-week prohibition should take effect. If approved, the bill would take effect the day after the results are certified.

The Assembly was scheduled to vote on the bill during a floor session set to begin Thursday morning. Approval would send the proposal to the Senate. It’s unclear whether it has enough support to pass that chamber; Republican Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said earlier this month that it would be hard for his caucus to come together around an abortion bill that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers will just veto. Evers has all but pledged to veto the measure if it reaches his desk, saying repeatedly that he won’t sign any bill that restricts reproductive health care.

Regardless, even introducing the bill could earn Assembly Republicans points with the state’s conservative base. Democrats have parlayed anger over the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 2022 to overturn its landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion nationwide, into big election wins across the nation.

That dynamic was in full force last year in Wisconsin, where Janet Protasiewicz won a state Supreme Court seat after repeatedly announcing on the campaign trail that she supports abortion rights. Her victory handed liberal justices a 4-3 majority on the high court.

Making matters worse for Republicans, a Dane County judge ruled this past summer that Wisconsin’s 174-year-old ban on abortion prohibits feticide — an attempt to kill an unborn child — but not abortions. Planned Parenthood, which had ceased providing abortion services following the U.S. Supreme Court decision, resumed operations in September following the Dane County ruling.

The case is on appeal and likely will end up before the state Supreme Court. Republicans will have tough time persuading Protasiewicz and the rest of the liberal majority to reinstate the abortion ban in full.

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Wisconsin Republicans set to pass bill banning abortions after 14 weeks of pregnancy