It only took a few minutes for the Wisconsin senate to sweep through a forced ultrasound bill that would also likely close the only abortion provider in the northern half of the state. Already accused by bill opponents of fast-tracking the restrictions, Republican senators called for an immediate vote on SB 206 Wednesday, shutting down any chance of full senate debate over the provisions or their impact. The bill was voted through the Senate Health and Human Services Committee just one day prior. It’s now likely on its way to becoming law.
Anti-choice politicians have dismissed claims that their fast tracking of the restrictions was meant to stifle debate. “These are issues that have been out there for quite some time,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) told the Associated Press prior to the vote. “They’re not speeding through without opportunity for public discussion. … I think most of these are common sense issues.”
Reproductive rights advocates disagree. “This bill and the way in which it was passed—rushing it through and shutting down debate—are emblematic of the anti-choice GOP caucus’ approach to women,” NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin Executive Director Jenni Dye said in a statement. “They want to tell women what to do and what to listen to, quite literally in this bill, without giving careful consideration to the consequences of the legislation they are passing.”
Next, the state house will take up the bill, which could happen as early as Thursday of this week; passage appears likely. Republican Gov. Scott Walker, a longtime abortion opponent who has received endorsements from every anti-choice organization in the state—including Pro-Life Wisconsin, a radical group that also opposes birth control—has already said he will sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk. “I don’t have any problem with ultrasound,” Walker told the AP Tuesday. “I think most people think ultrasounds are just fine.”
If SB 206 is signed, not only will ultrasounds, including a full description of the embryo or fetus, be a mandated part of abortion care, but the patient will be forced to listen to heart tones prior to an abortion as well. The bill would also likely cause the Appleton Planned Parenthood to stop offering abortions because of a targeted regulation of abortion provider (TRAP) provision that would require doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Although the state’s three other clinics, which are located in Milwaukee and Madison, should be able to meet the requirement, representatives at the Appleton clinic have said they are unlikely to be able to do meet the requirement. As such, the only abortion provider in the northern half of the state could close.