MADISON – Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin signed a bill into law on Friday that requires all abortionists in the state to both show women ultrasound images of their unborn children and have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
The 11-page bill, officially titled 2013 Senate Bill 206 (SB206), has been heralded as a strong piece of pro-life legislation, because ultrasound viewings often cause women to have second thoughts about abortion procedures. However, SB206 also requires doctors to carefully describe the unborn children to their mothers, so they understand how developed the babies are in the womb.
“[T]he physician who is to perform or induce the abortion,” the bill states, “… [must] provide a simultaneous oral explanation during the ultrasound including the number of unborn children and presence and location of the unborn child; display the ultrasound images so that the pregnant woman may view them; provide a medical description of the ultrasound images including the dimensions of the unborn child and a description of any viewable external features and internal organs of the unborn child; and provide a means for the pregnant woman to visualize any fetal heartbeat.”
Furthermore, the bill bans a doctor from performing abortions “unless he or she has admitting privileges in a hospital within 30 miles of the location where the abortion is to be performed.” This measure is designed to protect the woman’s health, in case something unexpected happens during the procedure.
SB206 is often referred to as “Sonya’s Law,” because Sonya, a mother of two young children, was considering aborting her unborn third child late last year. However, according to reports, Sonya happened to see a bus sign advertising free ultrasounds, and—after observing her baby’s heartbeat on ultrasound—she changed her mind, deciding not to have an abortion.
In a Friday press release, Wisconsin Right to Life’s Legislative Director Susan Armacost called SB206 an “important piece of legislation.”
“Sonya’s Law will empower women to make truly informed decisions regarding how they will proceed with their pregnancies,” she stated, “and will protect the lives of women who experience complications after their abortions.”
Soon after Governor Walker signed the bill late last week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced that they, along with Planned Parenthood, have filed a lawsuit against the state of Wisconsin, challenging the constitutionality of Sonya’s Law. A Friday ACLU press release claims that the bill might lead to the closure of two of Wisconsin’s four abortion clinics.
“This law will drastically limit a woman’s ability to obtain a safe and legal abortion in Wisconsin by imposing burdensome and medically unnecessary requirements on doctors that provide this essential care,” ACLU of Wisconsin Legal Director Larry Dupuis wrote in the release. “This law was rammed through the legislature in a matter of days and now, with a stroke of his pen, the governor has put the very health and wellbeing of Wisconsin women and families at immediate risk.”
Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, agreed.
“With this eleventh hour attack on women’s health, Wisconsin has now joined the ranks of Mississippi, Alabama, and others, in a national campaign to outlaw abortion,” she said. “Enough is enough. Politicians can no longer be permitted to shut down clinics that provide safe abortions and prevent a woman from making the best decision for her and her family.”
However, Wisconsin Right to Life says the ACLU/Planned Parenthood lawsuit is “no surprise,” and will most likely be unsuccessful. Already, they point out, similar laws across the country have been enacted and upheld by courts.
“It’s no surprise they’ll be challenging,” said Wisconsin Right to Life’s executive director, Barbara Lyons, according to a Politico report. “They see their livelihood threatened, their income threatened. We don’t think in the long run they’ll be successful.”
The signing of Wisconsin’s SB206 comes less than a week after Ohio Governor John Kasich authorized similar pro-life measures, as previously reported. In addition, pro-life legislation is also expected to be enacted in Texas, perhaps as soon as this week.