An attempt to make a political statement against a recently passed bill that would require women to obtain an ultrasound prior to an abortion led to a confrontational run-in outside the Senate chambers at the Capitol Thursday.
The crowd of roughly two dozen had started the day with the intention of delivering coat hangers to the Capitol offices of four Republican politicians they deemed the most vocal and supportive of the ultrasound bill, according to Kelley Albrecht, one of the women protesting the bill.
Albrecht said the group went to the offices of Sen. Mike Ellis, R- Neenah; Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin; Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Burlington; and Gov. Scott Walker.
Albrecht said representatives with each office refused to accept the coat hangers from them. Coat hangers are often referenced as a reminder of the unsafe means by which some doctors performed abortions prior to the procedure being made legal in 1973 with the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade.
When the group was thwarted from the lawmakers’ offices they attempted to enter the Senate chambers, where lawmakers were debating the state budget. That prompted Senate staffers to rush to slam and lock the doors of the chambers.
One man, Peter Adamczak, 32, of Milwaukee, was at the front of the crowd. He and the women were repeatedly pushed back until the doors were closed. Eight people were reportedly arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.
“I’m here to stand side by side with women,” Adamczak said as the protesters around him chanted “Focus on jobs, not vaginas!”
“I can’t imagine it is an easy choice for women to decide to have an abortion. It shouldn’t be made invasive by requiring a transvaginal ultrasound,” he said.
The so-called ultrasound bill rapidly made its way through the Legislature last week. It was introduced and approved by the Senate and Assembly within two weeks. Walker has said he will sign it.
The bill would require women to receive an ultrasound and be told what is visible on the screen. While the bill does not say a transvaginal ultrasound is mandatory, a traditional ultrasound is often unable to pick up the image inside a women’s womb until she is between eight and 12 weeks pregnant.
Critics have said the procedure is invasive and equal to rape.
Albrecht told me outside the locked Senate doors that she had to have a transvaginal ultrasound 20 years ago when she was pregnant with the second of three sons. Having had five miscarriages prior to that point, she needed the procedure to check on the fetus.
“Even thought it was necessary to save my baby, I still felt violated,” she told me.
She described herself as a Catholic and said she probably would never have an abortion. But she said it is not her choice or the choice of lawmakers to make that decision for others.
“We are tired of not having our voices heard,” Albrecht said. “Women are being shamed for being raped. They are being shamed for saying words like ‘vagina’] and they are being shamed for saying ‘no.’”
She points out women are being criticized for speaking out against these kinds of bills yet lawmakers are making much more outrageous comments. She cited former state Rep. Roger Rivard, R-Rice Lake, who said “Some girls rape easy,” and Lazich, who recently said during a Senate debate on the ultrasound bill: "These abortions became popular in the '60s. It was almost the thing to do. You needed to get one of them to be a woman."
“This bill has nothing to do with abortion,” Albrecht said. “It has to do with controlling women.”