Update via the Post Crescent: AB 154 passed with a vote of 61-34 Tuesday night. It bans “abortion coverage from policies obtained through a health insurance exchange to be set up under the federal health care reform law starting in 2014. The bill previously passed the Senate and now heads to Walker” [Link to text of bill AB154]
AB 337 passed with a vote of 60-34 early today (Wednesday) The bill requires “schools to teach abstinence as the only reliable way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The measure, backed by Pro-Life Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, also allows schools to teach abstinence-only classes, which was banned under a 2010 law passed by Democrats. No contraception education would be required.” [Link to text of bill AB337]
“The Assembly planned to complete its work Thursday. The Senate was expected to wrap up Wednesday.”
I don’t know if you’ve noticed something different with women in America lately. They seem to be more alarmed and more angry. Part of it is the much-publicized backlash against Rush Limbaugh for his attack against Sandra Fluke. * Part of it is a growing alarm over a series of invasive laws against women that are hopscotching across our state legislatures.
Now Wisconsin’s Tea Party-dominated Assembly is set to jam 3 pieces of anti-woman legislation through by the end of tonight’s meeting of the legislative body or by, at the latest, March 15th when the legislature’s session is set to end. You can jump to the end of this piece to see more detailed explanations, but briefly, AB 337/SB 237 opens the door to abstinence-only sex education in public schools, AB 154/SB 92 makes private insurance coverage of abortion illegal, and AB 371/SB 306 restricts abortion by telemedicine, and so doing, makes it fundamentally more difficult for rural women to seek an abortion.
I showed up midway during an event I only learned about the night before at a party. About 600 women – many dressed in pink or holding pink signs and most of them young women in their 20’s- gathered at the steps of the Capitol building. Several politicians made a point to visit the rally including gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Falk, Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, Rep. Chris Taylor, and Rep. Jocosta Zamarippa.
Lisa Subeck, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice, spoke at the rally and quoted Rebecca Kleefisch, pointing out her hypocrisy: “Rebecca Kleefisch said “I don’t think that government should be in a place of mandating coverage for people. That should be between a patient and a doctor.” These bills which she supports are inserting politicians smack in the middle of the doctor patient relationship where they do not belong. . .. so we’re here today to tell Governor Walker and Lieutenant Governor Kleefisch and their anti-choice colleagues in the legislature that women are watching, women are voting, and women are mad as hell. “
I had conversations with multiple women who said they got word of the event from email or facebook but one of the women came after hearing Rep Chris Taylor speak over the weekend. (Rep. Taylor also wrote an editorial published in the Cap Times on March 6 “GOP has declared war on women”). The woman who heard Rep. Taylor urged a friend to come along to the rally and the two of them carried signs about turkeys and uteruses that I didn’t understand. Then I remembered that “turkey” used to be slang for “fool”.
Several of the women I spoke with made a statement I’ve heard repeatedly in the last couple of weeks: “I can’t believe we need to deal with this!”. Women feel the rights they fought for and won should not have to be defended because they are so fundamental to modern life.
At the end of our chat I walked away and the women with the turkey signs called after me with advice for the blog, “Tell your readers they have to vote! We have to get out the vote to turn this around!”
AB 337/SB 237:
Repeals the Healthy Youth Act that was enacted to provide our youth with medically accurate information about how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy. Wisconsin teens are engaging in risky sexual behavior, which is jeopardizing their health, lives and futures. In Wisconsin, the overall teen birth rate has been declining. In 2006 and 2007, we saw a slight increase and then drop in 2009 & 2010. The 2010 WI teen birth rate (26.2 / 1000) was lower than the 2009 national rate (39.1); however many Wisconsin counties have teen birth rates higher than the Wisconsin or national average.
Research is clear that tackling teen pregnancy requires a multi-layered approach, including comprehensive, age appropriate, medically accurate sex education. Wisconsin’s current law regarding sex education standards assures that our students receive an abstinence-centered education that includes medically accurate information about contraception to prevent pregnancy and the spread of disease. The bill you have scheduled reverses this standard and brings Wisconsin back to the days of ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage programming. Teenage childbearing and STD’s cost Wisconsin millions each year. In addition, teenage parenthood is the leading cause of school drop out among girls and children of teens do not perform as well in measures of school readiness and child development.
AB 154/SB 92:
Bans private insurance coverage of abortion services. This legislation is not supported by the insurance industry and is opposed by the medical community and the women it serves. The only organizations who are supporting this bill are those who exist only to end access to safe and legal abortion services in Wisconsin. Interestingly enough, these same groups also want to end access to birth control services. These organizations are pushing an agenda today that will prevent private citizens in Wisconsin from purchasing private insurance coverage on the private market.
Assembly Bill 154 will eliminate insurance coverage for abortion services in Wisconsin—even when individual citizens are using their own dollars to purchase private insurance. This is the state legislature telling private insurance what they can and cannot cover. About 80% of all health insurance plans cover abortion services and this bill will be taking away a private benefit that tens of thousands of women currently have.
AB 371/SB 306:
This legislation reiterates policies that are already law and adds additional barriers to women who seek abortion and criminalizes doctors who would follow the best medical practice in regards to abortion care.
This bill is an extremely troubling overreach of legislative authority into the practice of medicine. Under proposed provisions within AB 371, the Wisconsin Legislature go so far as to prescribing the medical procedures that doctors and their patients must follow with abortion care, including the health care facilities women must patronize for follow up abortion care.
* Rush Limbaugh turned his vitriol against Fluke, you may remember, because the Georgetown student testified about Georgetown’s policy on contraception during an unofficial hearing led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). She argued that birth control should be covered by health insurance at religious institutions.