Wisconsin abortion bills a travesty

Statement by FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor

Disgraceful passage by the Wisconsin Legislature today of an unconstitutional bill promoted by Roman Catholics to allow religious employers to bar contraception coverage for women employees is a travesty.

SB 202 has major state/church implications. The bill would prohibit the group insurance board from contracting for or providing abortion services, and would “exempt religious employers, religious organizations, and religious institutions of higher education from contraceptive insurance coverage.”

This would contravene Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate. That mandate already exempts church denominations from providing contraceptive coverage, but does ensure that women employees at religious hospitals and students at religious colleges must be indirectly insured for contraceptive coverage.

Shockingly, the bill on its way for the governor’s signature would give any religious employer veto power over a woman employee’s health decisions about contraception. In the name of religion, any employer (not limited to a church or church agency) could bar an employee from health coverage for contraceptive needs. Contraceptive pills, at $60 a month, are a huge expense for Wisconsin women, as are gynecological appointments.

Another anti-abortion bill expected to pass would have chilling ramifications for Planned Parenthood in Appleton, which said that it will need to close its abortion facility, one of four in the state, with passage of SB 206. Spokeswoman Nicole Safer said its clinic won’t meet the unnecessary mandate that clinics be within 30 miles of a hospital, making it harder for Appleton-area women to find qualified providers.

SB 206, known as the ultrasound bill, also requires women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound. That’s not a problem since regular ultrasounds are routinely provided by abortion clinics in Wisconsin and around the country. (A barbaric requirement to force invasive transvaginal ultrasound was deleted from the bill.) But the bill would harass women patients and clinics by forcing the technician to display the fetus and describe size, any visible internal organs and external features. The third bill would forbid abortion for sex determination. While a non-issue, it is clearly a violation of Roe v. Wade, which leaves the decision up to the woman and her doctor.

What is most dismaying in all of this is that the Catholic Church and ‘antis’ are now on the warpath not just against abortion, but contraception. The right to contraception should be a noncontroversial and settled issue. There should be an outcry against this paternalistic, religious interference with women employees’ reproductive liberties and private decisions.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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