Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

Senate President Roger Roth this week referred three fetal tissue bills to a Senate committee after months of delay.

Roth, R-Appleton, had been postponing the bills’ introduction because he wanted the Senate GOP caucus to discuss the competing proposals and come to a consensus on which route to take.

But that had drawn concerns from Sen. Terry Moulton, R-Chippewa Falls, who told last week he was “very frustrated” about the delay. Moulton is the co-author of two bills known as the “Heal Without Harm” package, which is backed by several anti-abortion groups.

A less strict proposal that opens up more avenues to research on fetal tissue is authored by Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and Reps. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, and Cindi Duchow, R-Town of Delafield.

All three proposals were circulating for co-sponsors near the start of the year, but they hadn’t been assigned to a committee or gotten a bill number until Roth’s action this week.

Roth told earlier he’s been “telling everybody all along” he wanted his GOP colleagues to come to an agreement on the issue, since a similar effort failed last session. Roth says he heard the “valid point” and concerns from senators that a mid-October caucus wouldn’t give committees enough time to schedule public hearings on the bills.

The bills have now been referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety, chaired by Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine.

Scott Kelly, a Wanggaard spokesman, said the bills likely won’t get a hearing during the fall session because there are several other proposals the committee has been looking to schedule hearings on already.

But Roth said there’s still “plenty of time left in the session” if the bills don’t pass this fall, saying he’d like to see his GOP colleagues resolve their differences.

“I’m hopeful that we can still come up with a solution,” he said. “We don’t have one right now.”

The two bills in the “Heal Without Harm” package haven’t been introduced in the Assembly.

Kit Beyer, a spokeswoman for Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the caucus hasn’t discussed the bills and has been focused on the budget. The Assembly GOP caucus will meet Oct. 12.

Barbara Sella, associate director at the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, also said the coalition of groups supporting the bill wants to start the process in the Senate.

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