Wisconsin Republicans Pass Anti-Abortion Bills Despite Governor's Veto Promise

One measure addresses an extremely rare scenario that Gov. Tony Evers says is covered by existing protections.

The Wisconsin Senate on Wednesday gave final approval to a set of anti-abortion bills, sending them to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ desk despite his vow to veto them all.

Among the four bills heading to Evers’ desk is a so-called “born alive” measure that creates criminal penalties for doctors who fail to give medical care to babies born during an abortion attempt. It is possible, but very rare, for a fetus to be alive when it is removed from the womb during the procedure.  

It’s unclear how much of a difference such a bill would make, as there are already protections in place to ensure physicians care for any babies born in such a scenario. 

Evers cited those existing protections when explaining his plan to veto the bill.

“We have all sorts of issues to deal with in the state of Wisconsin and to pass a bill that is redundant seems to be not a productive use of time,” he told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in April. “And clearly I ran on the belief — and I still believe — that women should be able to make choices about their health care. But this deals with a specific issue that’s already been resolved.”

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has vowed to veto the legislation.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has vowed to veto the legislation.

Doctors speaking out about the bill have also noted that babies born under those rare circumstances often have severe health abnormalities that they can live with for only a few minutes or hours. Any typical life-saving attempts, such as CPR or other invasive resuscitation efforts, performed by a doctor would likely only hasten death.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Senate President Roger Roth, said at Wednesday’s vote that the bill was an effort to address any gray areas not covered by current policy.

“No child should be left to die, no matter how they came into this world,” he said. “How could anyone object to this?”

Democratic Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling responded that the bill is a “smokescreen” attempting to rally a conservative base around reproductive rights issues. Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio have all passed extreme abortion restrictions in recent months, triggering a national debate around the issue. 

The Wisconsin bill passed along party lines Wednesday, but Republicans won’t have enough votes to override Evers’ veto.

The chamber also gave final approval to three other anti-abortion bills. Those measures would cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood; ban abortions based on the fetus’ race, gender or defects; and require abortion providers to tell women that the abortion process may be reversed after the first dose of the drug mifepristone, which is used during medical abortions. (There is currently no scientific evidence that such abortion “reversal” is possible.) 

Evers is expected to veto all of the bills in the coming days.