In December, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he wanted a bill banning the sale of fetal body parts that “actually saves unborn children, as opposed to just posing for political points.” However, the bill that has surfaced has disappointed pro-life groups and has garnered few co-sponsors compared with an earlier bill aimed at banning the sale of fetal body parts.
The latest bill, introduced in the Assembly as AB 83, has three senate sponsors and 14 Assembly sponsors. Two of the Assembly sponsors are Vos and Majority Leader Jim Steineke. State Representative Andre Jacque, who had introduced a bill banning the sale of fetal body parts. AB 305 from 10 senators and 43 representatives. Jacque commented to Media Trackers on the disparity, via email:
I was very surprised that only 3 senators and 14 representatives signed on the bill given the perceived push from leadership to do so. 5 of the 6 Assembly JFC (Joint Finance Committee)members are co-sponsors of AB 83, and all told, only 6 of the 14 State Representatives on the bill are not part of the Assembly GOP leadership team, which is a pretty uncommon ratio.
Probably the most striking thing about the co-sponsorship list is that Speaker Vos and Majority Leader Steineke are themselves both on the bill, which is a very rare occurrence.
Their leadership role within the caucus has generally been the explanation for why they do not sign onto bills, even those they had supported in the past (for example, both co-sponsored my legislation on prohibiting the sale or use of aborted children’s body parts when I introduced it in 2011, but did not sign on in 2013-’14 or last session citing that very reason). Given that aborted body parts legislation supported by myself, many of my colleagues and Wisconsin’s pro-life groups has not yet been but is about to be circulated, the Speaker’s co-sponsorship and public indications of support for the Darling/Duchow/Loudenbeck proposal, in advance of caucus discussions on the issue this session, certainly sends a strong message
The coalition of pro-life groups “Heal Without Harm,” had urged lawmakers to refrain from co-sponsoring the bill. The group said in a statement in early February:
As drafted, LRB-1927/1 would continue to allow the use of fetal body parts from aborted children in this state. There are numerous exemptions in the draft that would allow entities, government authorities (i.e. universities and clinics), non-profit procurement businesses, the pharmaceutical industry, and others to evade probhitions on the sale and use of those aborted baby parts.
Rep. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, and others introduced legislation last session that would ban the transfer of or experimentation on fetal tissue from abortions. The bill defined a fetal body part as a cell, tissue, organ or other part of an unborn child who is aborted by an induced abortion. UW officials warned that the wording of that bill would limit research now being done at the university.
The HWH Coalition also said it was not consulted on this draft language. The coalition also said in the statement that it is vital that Wisconsin forward legislation that truly ends the trafficking and exploitation of aborted children.
Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, in an interview with Media Trackers, conceded that the votes may not be there for AB 83 to pass. But he also believes there are not enough votes for passage of a bill about to be circulated that more closely resembles previous attempts. “It seems the bills either go not far enough or too far,” (to get the votes needed for passage) Steineke told us.