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Sunday, June 16, 2024
Under a bill authored by Rep. Andre Jacque and Sen. David Craig public employees will not be able to access abortions through their insurance.

Under a bill authored by Rep. Andre Jacque and Sen. David Craig public employees will not be able to access abortions through their insurance.

Public employees face uphill battle in accessing abortion services under new bill

Public employees in Wisconsin could face an uphill climb when seeking abortion services under a new bill advanced by state Republicans this week.

The bill would prevent the state’s Group Insurance Board, which provides health insurance to public employees, from contracting for or providing abortion services, forcing public employees seeking abortions to pay for those services out of pocket.

Only 36 percent of Americans support the public funding of abortions, according to the bill's co-authors, Rep. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere and Sen. David Craig, R-Town of Vernon. The bill bars tax money from paying for abortions.

“This bill protects the lives of the unborn, respects the conscience of state residents and protects taxpayers from future obligations to pay for abortions,” Craig said at a public hearing.

The bill allows exceptions only in the case of life-threatening complications to the mother, as well as victims of rape and incest who report their crimes to authorities.

For Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, these exceptions do not go far enough in protecting women’s agency.

“It is the women who tragically have wanted pregnancies that go terribly wrong and need extensive medical intervention who will be most impacted,” Taylor said. “The biggest tragedies of their lives will be compounded when they discover that in addition to not having the child they wanted, they will not have the insurance coverage they need.”

Jacque counters that an abortion does not constitute “health care.” But according to the Wisconsin Medical Society, who testified against the bill, abortion is a legal medical procedure.

The bill brings Wisconsin public employees under the same restrictions as federal employees and those receiving health insurance through Medicaid, according to Jacque.

“Assembly bill 128 provides equity so that taxpayers are not funding abortions for any group of people in Wisconsin,” Jacque said.

In his testimony on the bill, Jacques implied that abortions cause depression, anxiety and stress in women. Debate over the bill also included “legislators questioning the veracity of rape victims,” according to Taylor.

“Today, I again sat in disbelief listening to Republican male legislators question the veracity of rape victims. I was equally stunned when a Republican male legislator suggested that women should be compelled to bare children to support his economic development plans,” Taylor said.

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Debate over the bill comes as women protested “the exploitation of women worldwide” in the Capitol building this week dressed in costumes referencing Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale.

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