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Friday, April 12, 2024

SB 306 creates wrong message for Wis. youth



Last week, the state Senate passed Senate Bill 306, a bill requiring physicians to speak privately with, and conduct examinations of, women before performing abortions. Additionally, the legislation mandates a doctor be present when abortion drugs are administered, a measure aimed at preventing “web cam abortions,” a practice that widens abortion access by allowing physicians to administer abortion-inducing drugs over a live video stream.

Republicans framed the bill as an effort to prevent women from being coerced into abortions, saying it ensures patients’ consent. But according to the National Abortion Federation, a collection of abortion practitioners, only one percent of women cite pressure from a husband, partner or parent as the reasoning behind seeking the procedure. With this number in mind, it is obvious what Republican lawmakers are actually looking to do. They want to further restrict abortion access by building even more hoops for women to jump through to receive this legal medical procedure.

First of all, this bill is just another example of unfounded legislation being proposed at a time when there are far bigger fish to fry. With the economy struggling, Wisconsin legislators should be focusing on measures that benefit their constituents’ day-to-day wellbeing. Conversely, SB 306 serves not the people of Wisconsin, but the betterment of a certain ideology, specifically that of Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin.

One of three Republicans sponsoring the bill, Lazich has been on health advocates’ radar for a while now, having also authored a bill last fall that gave schools the authority to institute abstinence-only sexual health education. Last year we saw the passing of Wisconsin’s Healthy Youth Act, which required that students be taught about the various contraceptive methods. Lazich’s bill would essentially repeal this progress.

It is here that things get especially puzzling. Lazich wants to see the number of abortions go down, but she also wants to limit youth’s access to comprehensive sex education. In pursuing both of these legislative measures, Lazich and Republican lawmakers are hindering the first of these goals.

According to a 2008 study conducted at the University of Washington-Seattle, adolescents who receive comprehensive sex education are significantly less likely to report teen pregnancy. Additionally, abstinence-only education was found not to reduce the likelihood of teens engaging in vaginal intercourse or the rate of unplanned teen pregnancy. In short, teens are going to have sex. If we teach them how to do so safely and consensually, the number of unwanted pregnancies will go down, logically lowering the number of abortions sought.

Common ground exists between the pro-choice and pro-life sides of this debate: Both groups want to see abortion rates go down. It is an honorable goal, but Republicans are terribly confused about how this can be achieved. Lowering access to abortion is not inherently linked to lowering demand for the service. What is? Lowering the number of unplanned pregnancies, ergo comprehensive sex education is our ticket to accomplishing this shared goal.

Although both of Lazich's bills have been passed by the state Senate, neither has been approved by the Assembly. We urge Assembly members not only to recognize the profound flaws in each proposed piece of legislation, but also the contradictory nature of passing both bills. If we are going to address and improve upon the sexual and reproductive health of Wisconsin’s citizens, we must do so in a way that is grounded in reality, not just ideology.

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