Wisconsin Legislature Considers 'Born Alive Protection Act'

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by dianetavegia, Aug 22, 2003.

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    Wisconsin Legislature Considers 'Born Alive Protection Act'
    By Joanne M. Haas
    CNSNews.com Correspondent
    August 22, 2003

    Madison, Wisc. (CNSNews.com) - An aborted infant who takes a single breath or has a single heartbeat would be considered a live birth - and thus guaranteed the same legal protections given to babies who survive a normal delivery - under a bill pending in the Wisconsin Legislature.

    Wisconsin's Born Alive Infant Protection Act comes on the heels of a similar federal bill that President Bush signed into law on Aug. 5, 2002.

    The federal law defines "born alive" as the point at which an infant displays at least one specific vital sign after complete extraction from the mother - at any point in the pregnancy.

    The bill President Bush signed was modeled after laws already in place in more than 30 states.

    The Wisconsin proposal - similar but not identical to the federal law - is billed by its authors as a necessary measure to ensure that all live newborns are treated equally under the law.

    "This is kind of a simple concept," said Rep. Mark Gundrum (R-New Berlin), the lead author of the Assembly version.

    Republican Sen. Mary Lazich of New Berlin, author of the companion Senate bill, testified that the bill is necessary since state statutes lack a "born alive" definition. "This is not a discussion of Roe v. Wade," Lazich said.

    But Democrat Rep. Tom Hebl of Sun Prairie disagreed: "It's the abortion bill of the year," he said. "And we'll just have to deal with it."

    Hebl, an attorney, said he interpreted the bill's definition of being born alive as a basis for legal action against health care providers who perform abortions. "This will give the prosecutors the legal basis to criminally charge these doctors," he said.

    "Well, certainly," said Matt Sande, director of legislative affairs for Pro-Life Wisconsin. According to Sande, the bottom line is to make sure that unwanted infants born after abortions are provided the same care as wanted infants, instead of being left to die.

    Two former staff nurses at different testified that they had personal knowledge about babies who survived abortion, but then were allowed to die since the pregnancy was intended to be terminated.

    Gary Radloff, the legislative liaison for the state Department of Health and Family Services, said the agency is opposed to the measure because the state already is in strict compliance with the federal law. Radloff said if the bill is enacted, the state would likely record more infant deaths and thereby risk financial or other repercussions.

    Republican Sen. Kathy Stepp of Racine wondered aloud how telling the truth would be a problem.

    Susan Armacost, the legislative director for Wisconsin Right to Life, said the Born Alive Infant Protection Act will draw a "bright line" between abortion and infanticide. "And that child's legal status and legal rights should most certainly not be based on whether the child's mother wants him or her," she said.

    While the Wisconsin Catholic Conference registered in favor of the bill, the representative for the six judicatories of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America registered in opposition.

    The Rev. Sue Moline Larson surprised one of the committee co-chairs, Republican Sen. Dave Zien of Eau Claire, who called her testimony "unbelievable." Likewise, Republican Rep. Glenn Grothman of West Bend said if the Lutherans knew what she had told the committee, there would be a lot less in the collection plate.

    In response, Larson urged Grothman to respect the five years of church deliberations that went into the views she detailed in her testimony. She said she also doubted whether all the backers of the bill are devoted to the long-term commitment of providing a healthy and supportive life for all children and families.

    "Your role then as legislators is not only to protect the unborn life by seeking to create a legal determination of its humanity, but to work to provide an environment in which children can be safely received," Larson said.

    "Congruency in concerns for the newly born must include a safety net that promotes fair wages, affordable health care and housing, and that acknowledges and vigorously challenges racism and discrimination towards young, low-income minority women."

    Hebl, speaking as a lifelong Catholic, thanked Larson for her testimony and called her a "poster child for having women in the priesthood."

    No vote was taken after the standing room-only hearing, which lasted about three hours. A vote may be taken in committee next week.

    The bill is expected to pass both Republican-controlled houses of the Wisconsin Legislature. Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, was unavailable for immediate reaction. However, some key Democrats said they thought he might veto the bill.


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