Emergency Contraceptives Bill Brings Abortion Debate to the Capitol

By: Zac Schultz
By: Zac Schultz

Madison: An ad in the UW student newspaper led to a debate over emergency contraception and abortion.

Last spring University Health Services took out a series of ads in the campus newspaper. The number one tip told women to bring the morning after pill along with their sunscreen and bikini on vacation.

"I think the mission of the UW System is education, not family planning, which is where they're going with advertisements like this and promotions like this," says Rep. Daniel LeMaheiu (R-Oostburg).

Rep. LeMahieu didn't stop with the advertising, he wants to prevent all UW System schools from dispensing Plan B, also known as the morning after pill. "I think this bill will protect unborn children. One of the results of taking the Plan B morning after pill is a chemical abortion."

"This bill is clearly about restricting women's access to birth control methods and restricting reproductive rights," responded Rep. Terese Berceau (D-Madison).

LeMahieu's bill targets only emergency contraceptives, because the double dose of hormones can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall.

And that's where Thursday's Assembly hearing went from the merits of the bill to a debate about when life begins.

Pro–life groups testified that life begins at fertilization. "There is, however, a dispute over what to call the destruction of this embryo; is it contraception or is it abortion?" says Dr. James Linn, and ObGyn at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

But the American College of ObGyn and the American Medical Association says a pregnancy begins with implantation in the uterine wall–usually six days after fertilization. "That wasn't a political move it actually is based on scientific fact–the fact is that mass of cells that is floating around the uterus has no potential for life until it is attached to the wall of the uterus," says Dr. Beth Wiedel, an ObGyn at UW Hospital.

The bill is likely to advance out of committee to the Assembly, because the four Republicans on the board are all co–sponsors of the bill. But Governor Doyle has already said it will be vetoed if it makes it to his desk.

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