Women's health issues take center stage at Capitol

MADISON -- Women's health issues took center stage during the final days of the Legislative session, and some women are not happy about bills poised to pass. For Republicans, these bills are moral issues, and ones that center on local control and the use of taxpayer money. For Democrats, these bills amount to nothing more than an attack on women.

A protest organized by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin brought hundreds of women to the Capitol steps in Madison Tuesday, March 13th. The protesters said they're fed up with what they call a Republican anti-woman agenda. "We're mad as hell today because here we are on the last day of the Legislative session, and our Legislature has to jam in every single anti-woman's health bill that's available to be scheduled on the last day. We have been watching, and we are watching, and guess what? Women vote!" Tanya Atkinson with Planned Parenthood said.

Planned Parenthood itself brought criticism from Republican lawmakers. "They are as partisan as any group here, so I don't have a whole lot of respect for the perspective they bring to the Capitol," State Representative Robin Vos (R - Burlington) said.

At the Capitol Tuesday, the Wisconsin State Assembly was set to vote on bills that would place new limits on abortion, and force schools to teach abstinence education in sex ed classes. "We want to make sure that the government is not paying for services that to which many citizens have a moral objection. Is it right for us to pay for abortions in ObamaCare? No, which is why we're bringing it up today. Just guarantees that taxpayer money will not be used to pay for abortions inside ObamaCare, and it won't be part of the exchanges," Vos said.

Some Democrats say the Legislative focus should be on jobs. "Instead of focusing on jobs, they're focusing on these extreme agendas that is taking away women's health, choices, undoing evidenced-based practices on ways to decrease teen pregnancy and save teen lives," State Representative Sandy Pasch (D - Whitefish Bay) said.

Republicans see the abstinence bill as a way to give a local school board more control over its own curriculum. "One of the bills we're taking up today in the last session - they required a mandatory sex education class, a one-size-fits-all for the state of Wisconsin. What we're saying today is that it should be up to the local school district to make a decision for themselves," Vos said.

"We want the Legislature to get the message that women need access to health care, life-saving cancer screenings, birth control and we're not going to accept anything less," Teri Huyck with Planned Parenthood said.

The Assembly has not yet taken up the bills, but could later Tuesday.