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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

State Republicans united on defunding Planned Parenthood, disagree on fetal tissue

As a Senate committee heard testimony on three abortion-related bills Tuesday, an otherwise united Republican party showed signs of disagreement on one of them.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he probably doesn’t have the 50 votes necessary to pass a bill which would bar research using fetal tissue acquired after January, 2015.

Bill co-author state Rep. André Jacque, R-De Pere, said he hadn’t spoken to Vos about the matter but remained optimistic it would clear the Assembly in its current form, saying he felt there was strong support in the caucus.

The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services heard from researchers and advocacy groups on the fetal tissue ban, which state Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, said would ensure that ethical standards are adhered to in conducting research.

“The purpose of [this bill] is simple: to ensure research in Wisconsin continues with the highest ethical standards in mind,” Stroebel said in his testimony. “We need to treat aborted children as humans and not specimens.”

Dr. Robert Golden, dean of the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, disagreed, saying the bill would stifle research at the institution.

“This would have serious downstream consequences,” Golden said. “It would limit research on vaccines not yet discovered, for treatments not yet discovered, for causes of disease not yet understood.”

In addition, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the patenting arm of UW-Madison, announced it unanimously opposed the bill, joining the state chamber of commerce and biotechnology firms in standing against it.

State Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, agreed with Golden, saying he was worried about misinformation influencing researchers’ ability to perform their work.

“I’m concerned about people throwing around junk science and people questioning the scientific community when [proponents of the bill are] off base,” Carpenter said.

The committee also took up two bills which would divert federal money away from Planned Parenthood, one by blocking the flow of Title X grants to the organization, while the other would prevent it from buying discounted medications, something it can currently do under Medicaid.

Jacque testified that Planned Parenthood effectively had a monopoly on federal Title X grant money, saying that money would be better controlled by the state Department of Health Services.

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“Why only Planned Parenthood?” he said. “Why should we even have a state DHS at that point?”

Legislative Republicans have grown more interested in Planned Parenthood following the release of videos taken by abortion opponents that they say show organization officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue, a practice that would violate federal law.

The full Assembly is expected to take up the Title X bill during floor session Thursday.

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