Tensions flared on the floor of the Wisconsin state Senate on Wednesday, when emotional testimony from both sides was interspersed with back-and-forth shouting and an eventual vote to pass legislation requiring women to undergo a detailed, mandatory ultrasound before getting an abortion.
As Raw Story reported, a particularly contentious exchange began when state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, the only Democrat to testify, explained her opposition to the bill by reading letters from her constituents.
“The idea of -- quote -- small government is in direct conflict with big government Republicans sticking their nose in my vagina,” Vinehout read from a letter. “How can we get the conservatives -- mostly men -- to quit blaming women, many times girls, solely for unwanted pregnancies?”
Vinehout then went on to read a correspondence from a rape survivor in her district. The woman argued that supporters of the bill were not thinking about the "emotional toll" that those who had become pregnant through unreported rape may be subjected to when forced to submit to an ultrasound after choosing an abortion. Under the bill, technicians are required to describe the size, location and number of fetuses, as well as identify any viewable internal organs or external features, according to the Associated Press.
Vinehout then admitted that the story was especially powerful to her because she herself had struggled with the results of being sexually assaulted as a teenager.
But the issue extended beyond mandatory ultrasounds and detailed information, Vinehout said. She argued that the bill's new restrictions on abortion providers would work against the ultimate goal of reducing abortions, an objective that Vinehout said both she and her Republicans colleagues sought.
“And if we truly want to make abortion rare, Mr. President, why are we defunding Planned Parenthood?” she said. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) and state Republicans have targeted funds for the women's health provider repeatedly in past years, forcing it to shutter a number of facilities.
(Watch Vinehout's testimony above.)
State Sen. Mary Lazich (R), a sponsor of the bill, then offered a rebuttal to Vinehout, urging her colleagues to ignore the Democrat's "theatrics" because the legislation provided ultrasound exceptions for women seeking abortions for pregnancies from sexual assault or incest. Lazich then gave a fiery defense of her measure.
“If you have a loved one that’s thinking about terminating their pregnancy, for crying out loud, you want them to have full information, you want them to have an ultrasound, you want them to know what’s going on in that womb and what they’re doing, and that they’re not going to be able to change that for the rest of their life!” she said, banging on the lectern. “They make that decision, it’s over! It’s over in a few minutes. And then later on they can live with the fact that they terminated their pregnancy and it was the best thing for them or they killed their child and they made a horrific decision and they regret it and they wish they never would have done it.”
Lazich went on to suggest that this was a small step, and that she planned to submit legislation designed to enact further regulations and restrictions on abortions and providers. State Senate President Mike Ellis (R) then called for a roll call vote on the measure, over the objections of Democrats shouting from the chamber.
“It’s non-debatable! Call the roll!” Ellis yelled in response. “You’re out of order!”
The back-and-forth continued, as Ellis loudly slammed his gavel, reportedly breaking the wooden base. Democrats eventually had their microphones cut off, the AP reported, and the bill was passed, 17-15. It now goes to the GOP-controlled state Assembly for final passage. Gov. Scott Walker (R) has said that he will sign it into law.
Watch video of the wild state Senate scene below: