The Republican-majority Wisconsin Assembly on Thursday passed a bill that will ban abortion at 20 weeks post-fertilization after a GOP lawmaker contended that the measure is not actually about abortion.
During the debate preceding the assembly’s vote, state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Allis) said that his Democratic opponents had misunderstood the measure.
“It’s being portrayed as, ‘It’s banning abortion,’” Sanfelippo said on Thursday. “This bill isn’t about abortion, this bill is about protecting children who are capable of feeling pain from going through an extremely excruciating and painful experience.”
The claim that fetuses can feel pain starting at 20 weeks post-fertilization, invoked on Thursday by Sanfelippo, is often cited by anti-choice activists. A letter from 99 OB-GYNs to the Wisconsin government, as well as available medical evidence, says “fetal pain” claims are not true.
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About 1.4 percent of U.S. abortions are performed after 21 weeks’ gestation, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“We’re not telling a doctor what he can and can’t do,” Sanfelippo added. “Everything in this bill leaves decisions up to a doctor and a mother.”
SB 179, passed by the state senate in June, will ban all abortion after 20 weeks except in cases in which the pregnant person’s life is in danger. The bill contains no exceptions for rape, incest, or fetal anomaly.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker in June said he would sign the bill without exceptions for rape or incest because women are only concerned with those issues “in the initial months” of a pregnancy. SB 179 will now be sent to Walker’s desk for a signature.
Walker, who is expected to announce his 2016 bid for president on Monday, had until this spring declined to comment on his opinion of 20-week bans, even saying that he recognizes a person has the legal right to terminate a pregnancy.
But following pressure from prominent conservative anti-choice organizations, Walker wrote a letter in March saying he would sign a 20-week ban if it came to his desk and would support such legislation on the federal level.
Walker’s signature on SB 179 would make Wisconsin the 16th state to enact a 20-week abortion ban.