Bill would bar state health plans from covering abortions, with some exceptions

Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

A bill that would prohibit the Group Insurance Board from providing some abortions for public employees or contracting to do so “corrects a practice” Wisconsinites don’t agree with, according to its GOP authors.

The legislation faced a strong backlash from Dems, who argued it eliminates physicians’ role in deciding when an abortion is “medically necessary” and instead substitutes politicians’ judgment.

The bill, authored by Sen. David Craig and Reps. Andr√© Jacque, Ron Tusler and Janel Brandtjen, would allow for exceptions for rape, incest and to protect the mother’s life. Currently, the state covers “therapeutic abortions” for public employees at any stage of pregnancy. While that definition varies across plans, most are defined by whether they’re medically necessary.

Jacque and Craig, who spoke about the bill in front of the Assembly Committee on Health during a public hearing this afternoon, said it provides “equity” so taxpayers aren’t funding abortions for any group of people.

“We are trying to prohibit the taxpayers from subsidizing abortions, from paying for abortions,” said Jacque, R-DePere.

The legislation is a partial redraft of a bill from 2013 that passed the Assembly, but died when the Senate didn’t take it up before the session ended.

Still, committee Dems, including Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, raised concerns the legislation was “another bill to chip away at abortion care.”

Meanwhile, Reps. Chris Taylor and JoCasta Zamarripa worried it would limit women’s access to abortions.

But Rep. Dave Murphy, R-Greenville, said access is different than payment, likening the right to getting an abortion to the right of possessing a gun — but he wouldn’t “ask someone to pay for” the gun.

And Julaine Appling of Wisconsin Family Action, who was among a handful of people speaking in favor of the legislation, said the bill “is about who pays for the procedure, not about access.” Others included representatives from Wisconsin Right to Life and Pro Life Wisconsin.

At one point, Jacque also referenced a comment from Taylor, D-Madison, at an earlier date about how Wisconsin is a state with fewer millennials than baby boomers, saying preventing abortion could help with that.

“One of the first things we should do to address the shortage of young people in our midst is to stop aborting them,” Jacque said.

Throughout the hearing, Dems returned to that point, with Subeck questioning Jacque whether he was telling women to “have children to solve a demographic problem in the state.”

Jacque said that was outside the scope of the bill.

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