By Emily Zantow/Courthouse News
MADISON, Wis. (CN) – The Wisconsin Senate passed a bill Tuesday night that would prohibit government employees from using their work-issued insurance plan to pay for abortions, except in certain circumstances.
Unless it is a case of rape, incest or to preserve the life of the mother, the bill would bar state workers and local government employees from using Wisconsin’s Group Insurance Board coverage for abortions.
“This bill prohibits GIB from entering into any contract with respect to a group health insurance plan or providing a group health insurance plan on a self-insured basis that provides abortion services, with certain exceptions,” according to the legislation’s text.
Wisconsin already bans abortion through Medicaid, the low-income program Badgercare and state Affordable Care Act health insurance plans.
The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Senate approved the bill on a party-line, 18-14 vote without debate Tuesday night. State senators and representatives worked until nearly midnight, voting on a number of bills backed by Republican Governor Scott Walker as they try to wrap up their 2017-2018 legislative session.
A similar abortion bill failed in 2013 because Senate leaders declined to take it up, partially because Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, promised it would incite “all out hell” on the Senate floor.
The latest proposal had already passed 61-35 in the GOP-controlled Wisconsin State Assembly last year, to the satisfaction of bill sponsor Rep. Andre Jacque, R-DePere.
“The government should not force taxpayers to fund the killing of pre-born children. Abortion is not health care,” Jacque told Wisconsin Public Radio last November.
The bill will now head to the desk of Governor Walker, an outspoken opponent of abortion.
As lawmakers worked into the night Tuesday, the Wisconsin Senate also approved bills that would curb regulations meant to minimize development on wetlands, allow terminally ill patients to try experimental drugs, and provide more money to schools in rural areas and cash-strapped districts.
Wisconsin Assembly members were also busy Tuesday night approving a number of measures, including a bill that would exempt rent-to-own companies from disclosing interest rates under the state’s consumer-protection law and a proposal to funnel nearly $7 million to advertising efforts aimed at encouraging veterans and millennials to move to Wisconsin to help the state’s worker shortage.
The State Assembly is slated to meet again several times during the spring and the Senate will meet twice more.