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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

 9:59 PM 

Emotions run high as Assembly passes bill banning health care exchange abortion coverage

The Assembly passed a bill that would prohibit state health care exchanges from covering abortions, 61-34. The bill now heads to the governor's desk for his signature.

Dems Peggy Krusick and Tony Staskunas and independent Bob Ziegelbauer joined Republicans in supporting the bill.

Democrats argued that the bills are part of a Republican "war on women" and would necessarily impair women's health by limiting access to abortions for those who require them. A handful of Democratic representatives were wearing Planned Parenthood shirts.

The GOP turned away two Democratic amendments, including one which would have said health care exchanges could not cover vasectomies either. Those amendments were defeated 63-32.

"Why is every woman's ability to use her own judgement constantly up for debate?" asked Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison.

Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, said opponents were neglecting the toll taken on unborn children who are aborted.

"We've heard this is an attack on women, a war on women's rights," Kleefisch said. "What about the war on the rights of the women who are yet unborn?"

Democrats dismissed this suggestion, with Rep. Amy Vruwink, D-Milladore, telling a story of a constituent forced to abort due to her dying unborn child that was threatening the mother's health.

"Now under this bill, this woman's insurance would not cover this, and that's shameful and ridiculous," said Rep. Amy Vruwink, D-Milladore. "This isn't something she wanted to do, something she elected to do."

Republicans said the bill would allow (though, as Dems countered, not mandate) the exchanges to cover abortion in the cases of incest, sexual assault, or when the mother's life is threatened. They also said that the bill was just making sure taxpayers weren't forced to pay for those abortions.

Rep. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, then responded with a personal account of the premature birth of her daughter, who died shortly after delivery. Her next daughter was also a high-risk pregnancy but she gave birth regardless. She made the point that while both sides have entirely different views as to when life begins, she asked those members to respect the differences.

"It's not a war, it's what we believe, wholeheartedly," Ballweg said. "I would hope you respect that."

Democrats attempted to delay passage by objecting to third reading. Because the bill is on special order, it only requires a majority vote to approve third reading. As such, the bill moved forward.

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