March for Life (copy) (copy)

Pro-abortion rights counter-protesters hold signs while anti-abortion demonstrators march past the Supreme Court in Washington, in January during the annual March for Life.


With a proposed 20-week abortion ban slated for a fast-tracked hearing next week, there's no question whether Gov. Scott Walker supports the measure. What's still unclear is where the Legislature's Republican caucus stands. 

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said Wednesday evening he had hoped the Assembly GOP would discuss the bill in its caucus that night, but a lengthy Joint Finance budget session prevented that.

A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Senate Republicans will discuss the bill and its timeline in caucus Thursday afternoon.

Asked whether the Legislature had time to pass the 20-week ban before it wraps up work on Walker's budget, Vos said, "I guess I hadn't thought about that timeline."

Vos told reporters again that he supports including exceptions for cases of rape and incest when enacting restrictions on abortion, echoing comments he made a few weeks ago.

"Of course I am pro-life. I ran for office pro-life. I am proud to support the unborn," Vos told reporters earlier this month. "When I ran for office, I have always taken to allow for exceptions for rape, incest or when the life of the mother is in danger. This bill has one of those exceptions: it sounds like it has one for when the mother's life is in danger ... so we'll have to have a caucus discussion to decide whether or not we want to have possible amendments or if we even want to move the bill at all. We just haven't talked about it."

The bill, authored by Senate President Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, and Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, makes no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. 

In the case of a medical emergency, a physician would only be allowed to terminate the pregnancy "in the manner that, in reasonable medical judgment, provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive."

To do so, a doctor would use a fetal monitor to check the baby's condition, which would likely require a woman to deliver via Caesarean section.

"This Walker-backed abortion ban is so extreme that there are no exceptions for rape and incest," Jenni Dye, research director for One Wisconsin Now and former executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin, told the Cap Times earlier this month. "It could even prevent doctors treating a woman with a medical emergency from using the procedure most likely to save her life or her health. It is a heartless attempt by politicians to dictate women's lives, instead of leaving these intensely personal decisions to Wisconsin women."

Vos said Wednesday he doesn't know whether exceptions for rape and incest cases will be part of the debate surrounding the bill, adding there are "a lot of issues we haven't gotten into" because lawmakers have been focused on the budget.

The bill's co-sponsors are adamantly opposed to including those exceptions.

"As a husband, father and EMT, I feel absolutely terrible for a woman who's involved in one of those heinous crimes," Kremer told the Cap Times earlier this month. "However, that does not mean we should put carve-outs in this bill that would essentially double down on that awful situation and selectively decide which children should and should not be inhumanely tortured to death by tearing them apart, limb from limb.

"Once that child feels pain — I'm sorry, no. We have a duty to protect that child from inhumane torture," Kremer continued.

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The bill will receive a hearing on Tuesday morning, in a joint meeting of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services and Assembly Committee on Health. A joint hearing will allow the legislation to move more quickly toward passage.

In March, days after a conservative activist called into question Walker's stance on the issue, the governor said he would sign into law a 20-week abortion ban if it landed on his desk.

While pro-life groups and some Republican lawmakers had signaled for months they would introduce such a ban, Walker had previously declined to comment on whether he would sign it.

"I think he's ready to go," Kremer said.

A spokeswoman for the governor did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Walker would support any changes to the bill.

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Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.