abortion protest

In this Feb. 6, 2010, file photo, Tory Lee, 23, center left, and Kindsey Carbol, 19, center, listen to a speaker at the Defend Life Rally on Library Mall as a group of abortion rights supporters march behind them. 

Buoyed by successes in the just-signed state budget, abortion foes say they have the numbers and momentum to push a more sweeping agenda.

Among the top legislative priorities: a law that would require a woman to undergo an ultrasound and hear a detailed description of the fetus before getting an abortion.

Abortion foes also say they're closely watching recent laws in six other states that ban abortions at the 20th week of conception. However, neither of the state's two largest anti-abortion groups list such legislation as a top priority.

Despite the general hopefulness in the anti-abortion movement, a significant unknown looms in the recall elections this summer against six Republican and three Democratic senators. Although the recalls were triggered by the collective bargaining issue, the outcome could reverse the Senate's anti-abortion majority.

"The recall elections are a big deal," said Matt Sande, lobbyist for Pro-Life Wisconsin. "The results will determine what legislation gets introduced for the remainder of the session."

Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, D-Madison, an abortion rights advocate, said the recall elections are a first and critical step in the effort to roll back "very troubling" measures in the state budget that will lead to increases in "unplanned pregnancies, abortions and sexually transmitted diseases."

She said abortion foes may have the legislative votes behind them but not the majority of Wisconsin residents.

Funding cut

Among measures cheered by anti-abortion groups, the 2011-13 biennial budget prohibits any entity that provides abortions at any of its facilities from participating in the state's family planning program.

The change renders Planned Parenthood, which performs abortions at three Wisconsin sites, ineligible for those funds and means an annual loss of about $1 million to that organization.

Sande said his group's ultimate goal is to strip Planned Parenthood of all government funding. Pro-Life Wisconsin estimates Planned Parenthood received $18 million in state and federal funding in 2010.

Amanda Harrington, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, did not dispute that number but said it's misleading because it includes money the organization is reimbursed for providing a range of health services to low-income residents through Medicaid.

Harrington said the loss of the family planning money "seriously jeopardizes" the future of nine Planned Parenthood health centers in the state that do not perform abortions but provide thousands of uninsured men and women with services such as cancer screenings and breast exams.

Next push

Pro-Life Wisconsin's top legislative priority is a law that would prohibit the sale and use of any human fetal body part, such as a cell, tissue or organ. Sande said the law is needed to prevent parts of aborted fetuses from being used in research, which he said has been done at UW-Madison.

UW-Madison and UW Health issued a joint statement in response saying, in part, "Limiting or barring access to legally and ethically obtained research materials would compromise the ability of scientists to find new drugs and therapies to treat serious diseases."

Sande's group also hopes to repeal a law passed by the last Legislature that requires schools that teach sex education to include age-appropriate information about birth control.

"It's a very exciting time for us, with a 100 percent pro-life governor and pro-life majorities in both houses," he said.

Sonogram legislation

At Wisconsin Right to Life, a top priority is the "2011 Woman's Protection Act," which has several components, including the sonogram requirement for women considering abortions, said Sue Armacost, the group's lobbyist.

Several states either already have such a law or are near passing one, although legal challenges have surfaced.

Harrington said Planned Parenthood "absolutely supports informed consent for women" considering abortions, but that the sonogram issue is about "politicians trying to legislate medical decisions." Physicians should be left to provide the appropriate level of care for each patient's circumstances, she said.

As for a law that would ban abortion after 20 weeks, Armacost said her group is "considering" the idea.

"It's not that there's a hesitation," she said. "You have to kind of pick and choose sometimes what you focus on."

She said a more immediate priority is getting Wisconsin to prohibit abortion coverage in the new health care exchanges that will be created through federal health care reform. The federal law allows states to opt out of abortion coverage.

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