On December 12, 2007, the Wisconsin Assembly voted 56 to 41 in favor of the Compassionate Care for Victims of Rape bill. Since that bill was overwhelmingly approved last spring by strong majorities of both parties in the State Senate 27 to 6, it will finally become law after a final reading in the Assembly and the Governor signs it, following five years of obstruction by a small but powerful faction. Thanks to all of you in the grassroots who persisted in struggling uphill for years, and to you who contacted your legislative representatives, your media, and your family, friends, and neighbors and urged them to support this bill.
Over 8 out of 10 Wisconsin residents approve this bill, and almost two-thirds of state Legislators voted for it this year. So we’re not talking about a slim margin here. Learn more about the issue, and the opposition to this law, here. This initiative to protect rights of victims of crime is a national issue, and other states besides Wisconsin have either passed this law, or are considering it. Where do your state legislators stand on this issue?
AB377/SB129 states that any emergency care hospital in Wisconsin is required to provide accurate information to sexual assault victims about the availability of FDA approved non-prescription medication that can prevent a pregnancy from occurring, and to provide access to such medication if the victim requests. This is the professional standard of medical care for victims of rape and incest. Emergency contraception medication is virtually 100 percent effective at preventing a pregnancy from becoming established if taken within twelve hours. It does not, and cannot abort an existing pregnancy. And just for good measure, the bill does not require a hospital to provide such medication to a person who is already pregnant. If a victim of sexual assault is provided quick access to emergency contraception, a pregnancy resulting from that criminal attack can be prevented.
The law is needed because only one-third of Wisconsin emergency facilities now provides that information and access to medication to all victims. This severely impacts those victims who do not happen to know about this medical care option, those for whom time is fast running out, and those from rural areas, who happen to find themselves in one of the other two-thirds of hospitals, in the aftermath of a sexual assault.
A faction of those in the organized so-called “pro-life” movement, who have a personal belief that no one should be able to use these contraceptives, strenuously opposes this standard medical care option for rape victims. Another faction of the “right-to-life” movement, which opposes abortion under any circumstances, has declined to take any position for or against this bill, despite the following facts: (a) Emergency contraception cannot abort an existing pregnancy. (b) Sexual assault results in some 25,000 pregnancies in the U.S. each year. (c) Early access to emergency contraception would prevent nearly all of the 16,000 abortions that result from rape each year.
Now hear this. This law will not cause abortions. It could prevent hundreds of abortions every year in Wisconsin. It will allow a victim of sexual assault to begin to regain control over her own life, rather than hold her future hostage to a terrible gamble on whether the violent criminal act of a psychopath will continue to unnecessarily dominate her life. Not one emergency hospital opposes this law. That’s a good law.
Do you know where YOUR state legislators stood on this bill? Go here and click on the link near the bottom of the page where it says, adopted “Ayes 56 Noes 41” to find out how your Assembly representative voted. Go here and click on the link that says “Ayes 27 Noes 6” to find out how your state Senator voted. Learn how some legislators representing Ozaukee County explain (or don’t explain) their stand on this bill.
Bad news comes in threes, and here’s the bad news, by the numbers, for those of us who live in Ozaukee, Washington, and Waukesha counties:
(1) Only six of the 33 Wisconsin state Senators voted against this bill, and against an overwhelming majority of Senators of each of the two Parties last May. Four of the six Senators who voted “no” represent residents of Ozaukee, Washington, and Waukesha counties. (The six who voted “no” are Senators Glenn Grothman, Scott Fitzgerald, Mary Lazich, Neal Kedzie, Joseph Liebham, and Daniel Kapanke. The four who represent voters in Ozaukee, Washington, and Waukesha counties, out of a total of 72 counties, are in bold-face type. Actually, Liebham’s Senate district 9, along with the Senate districts of Grothman (20), Kedzie (11), Fitzgerald (13), and Lazich (28), together constitute much of the contiguous halo of privilege and hubris and knee-jerk dogmatism which physically surrounds Milwaukee, and economically exploits while politically strangling that city. It’s a small band of population and territory that voted against the rest of the state Senators, and voted against the wishes of the vast majority of both urban and rural citizens in the rest of the state.)
(2) Every Assembly representative of every single resident of Ozaukee, Washington, and Waukesha counties voted against this bill. If you live in any of those three counties, you can be certain that your Assembly representative voted against Compassionate Care for Victims of Rape, and against the wishes of 80 percent of Wisconsin citizens.
(3) EVERY SINGLE ONE of the Republican leaders of BOTH the Wisconsin Senate and the Wisconsin Assembly actively opposed and voted against this bi-partisan bill that resoundingly passed both houses on roll call votes. This is a profound disconnect between current Republican legislative leaders, on one hand, and rank and file legislators and the clear will of the people, on the other hand. These Republican legislative “leaders” are, in the Senate, Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, Assistant Minority Leader Joseph Liebham, and in the Assembly, Speaker Michael Huebsch, Speaker Pro Tempore Mark Gottlieb, Majority Leader Jeff Fitzgerald, and and Assistant Majority Leader Mark Gundrum.
Unless you’re one of those misogynist louts who think that a woman or girl has no right to prevent a pregnancy from occurring, once a man “scores”, no matter how he does it, we can all be proud and relieved that the Wisconsin Legislature has finally voted emphatically in favor of this bill, so needed to protect the rights, and the future, of women who have unfortunately become victims of sexual assault.
However, we who are residents of the three counties of Ozaukee, Washington, and Waukesha should be ashamed of our legislators, and work and vote to replace them with more humane, less dogmatic representatives. And let’s get new, more truly representative Republican leadership in the Wisconsin legislature. This isn’t the only time, or the only issue, or the only way, that these incumbents who call the shots have let us down and shamed us.