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Wisconsin Republicans are circulating legislation that would bring a Texas-style ban on most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy to Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Republicans are circulating legislation that would bring a Texas-style ban on most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy to Wisconsin.

The bill, which is being circulated by Sen. Julian Bradley, R-Franklin, and Rep. Donna Rozar, R-Marshfield, would prohibit “any person from performing, inducing, or attempting to perform or induce an abortion on a woman if a fetal heartbeat is detected except when a medical emergency exists,” according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau.

“Under the bill, a ‘medical emergency’ means a condition that so complicates the medical condition of a pregnant woman as to necessitate immediate medical intervention to avert her death or for which a delay will create serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of one or more of the woman's major bodily functions,” according to the LRB.

The bill does not contain an exemption for pregnancies that result from rape or incest.

The legislation being circulated would also allow individuals to sue health care providers that perform, or attempt to perform, an abortion for “no less than $10,000” per procedure.

The proposal from Bradley and Rozar is similar to legislation enacted in Texas last year that implemented some of the tightest restrictions on abortion access in the country.

“This bill is a true matter of life or death,” Bradley said in a statement. “We need to start saving lives now — after passing a bill like this in September, 10,000 lives have been saved in Texas. Life is precious, and every beating human heart ought to be protected from abortion."

Bradley, via a spokesperson, did not answer a question about why exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape or incest were not included in the bill.

The legislation has not yet been introduced in either the Assembly or the state Senate. However, lawmakers’ decision to circulate it for co-sponsorship suggests it could be introduced in the coming weeks.

The Wisconsin bill, like the Texas law, would bar abortions once embryo cardiac activity can be detected. That typically occurs around the sixth week of pregnancy — a point at which many people do not know they are pregnant.

It would also deputize private citizens to sue health care providers who perform or attempt to perform an abortion for financial “damages.” The person suing does not need to be related to the pregnant person having the abortion. A lawsuit can be brought by “any other person,” according to the bill’s text.

Similar to the Texas law, it would prevent government officials acting in their official capacity from enforcing the ban, creating a novel legal obstacle to challenging the legality of the bill in court. Such a legal challenge would only occur if the bill became law — which is unlikely, given that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has vowed to veto additional restrictions to accessing abortion in Wisconsin. 

Wisconsin has had a ban on all abortions — except when an abortion is deemed medically necessary to save the mother's life — since 1849. However, that law has been unenforceable since 1973 under the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade.

Under Wisconsin's currently unenforceable ban, any person who “intentionally destroys the life of an unborn child” is guilty of a class H felony, punishable by up to six years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. Law enforcement officials — county district attorneys — would decide whether or not cases should be pursued against health care providers if Roe v. Wade was overturned under Wisconsin’s current law.

Under the proposed bill, private citizens would be responsible for enforcement — not state officials.

Abortion advocates decried the potential Wisconsin bill.

Mike Murray, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, said in a statement that the proposal “is a wakeup call to protect and support access to essential care. Everyone deserves the ability to make their own health care decisions and access the health care they need — including abortion.”

He continued: “For Republican members of the state Legislature, criminalizing abortion in Wisconsin isn't enough. They are now actively working to pass a Texas style ban on abortion at 6 weeks with a minimum $10,000 bounty reward for people to sue anyone who provides abortion care. Just as we have seen in Texas, this is practically a complete ban on abortion because it would prohibit abortion before almost anyone knows that they are pregnant.”

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