Women’s Health and Safety Act

On Wednesday, February 27th, the Senate Health Committee heard testimony on SB 398, the Women’s Health and Safety Act. The bill seeks to repeal Wisconsin statute 940.04 (Wisconsin’s Criminal Abortion Ban), which, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, would outlaw nearly all forms of abortion in Wisconsin. Moreover, the law includes a penalty of up to 15 years in prison for doctors who perform an abortion and a woman could receive up to 3.5 years in prison for having an abortion or performing an abortion on herself. The law is currently unenforceable as the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade legalized abortions in all fifty states 35 years ago. However, if Roe fell, Wisconsin’s Criminal Abortion Ban would immediately go into effect; local district attorneys could prosecute both women and doctors involved in the now-illegal procedure.
Throughout the hearing, pro-choice advocates from organizations such as NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin and Planned Parenthood kept their testimonies to the point, focusing on the antiquated law passed in the 1840’s and the importance of repealing it. The anti-choice speakers often focused on graphic imagery and rare circumstantial cases that were off topic and had little to do with the legislation at hand. Here are some of the facts presented by the pro-choice organizations.
Last year, Bush’s new Supreme Court upheld the Federal Abortion Ban in a 5-4 decision that sided against women’s health, chipping away at one of the most basic principles of Roe. With this decision indicating a change in the federal court, it is only a matter of time before Roe v. Wade is overturned and the right to a legal safe abortion is back in the hands of our state government. The repeal of 940.04 is necessary before Roe is overturned, or women and doctors statewide will be facing criminal investigation for exercising the right to choose.
At the hearing, pro-choice organizations and advocates focused on the criminalization of doctors and women under the current law for providing or accessing basic health care. They focused on the necessity of repealing a bill so antiquated that at the time of its passing in the 1840’s, women weren’t allowed to own property or vote. Abortion is a personal decision, not a criminal act. Medical decisions should be kept private, rather than promoting the next McCarthy era by making these decisions a matter of public investigation.
The Women’s Health and Safety Act is truly about keeping our prisons filled with real criminals, rather than criminals that were created by politicians looking to score political points.

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