MADISON -- With Governor Scott Walker's signature, a controversial abortion bill will become law. The Wisconsin Assembly has passed a bill banning non-emergency abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The Republican-controlled chamber approved the bill 61-34 Thursday, July 9th. The Senate passed the measure in June. It now goes to Governor Walker, who has said he will sign it into law.
Under the proposal, doctors who perform a non-emergency abortion after 20 weeks could be punished by up to $10,000 in fines and 3½ years in prison. The bill doesn't provide exceptions for pregnancies resulting from sexual assault or incest.
Prior to debate on the bill Thursday, there was a warning that much of the discussion would be personal -- and it was.
"We were expecting seven times. Unfortunately, three of those ended in miscarriages," Rep. Joan Ballweg (R-Markesan) said.
"That's the worst day of your life. That is the worst day of your life and I know because I've had so many pregnancy losses," Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) said.
It was emotional debate Thursday in the Assembly over the proposed ban on abortions after 20 weeks. Supporters of the ban said fetuses that far along can feel pain.
"This bill has to do with at what point in development does this baby feel pain? Testimony from the professionals have conflicting opinions on when that really happens," Rep. Ballweg said.
The bill's Republican supporters argue fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, however, says evidence suggests that's not possible until the third trimester begins at 27 weeks.
A 2010 study by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found that "although the cortex can process sensory input from 24 weeks, it does not mean the fetus is aware of pain."
Critics of the bill say it provides no exemption for cases of rape, incest or severe health problems.
"That's the problem with this bill -- it makes it black and white. It says unless a woman is gonna imminently die or a physician can say she's gonna lose a bodily function, you're out of luck," Rep. Taylor said.
"We're talking about seriously, seriously damaged -- and I'll use the word -- fetuses who are not going to survive outside the womb," Rep. Terese Berceau (D-Madison) said.
Supporters of the ban say we need to have more research on the development of a fetus and until there are more conclusive studies, we should "err on the side of mercy."
"Mr. Speaker, let us make history today by taking the moral high road in Wisconsin and protect even the most vulnerable citizens in this state," Rep. Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum) said.
If Governor Walker signs the 20-week-ban into law, Wisconsin will become the 14th state to outlaw such abortions.