By Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter
WAUWATOSA — Demonstrations rarely get more intimate than this.
About 20 protesters gathered outside Gov. Scott Walker’s Wauwatosa home Tuesday and chanted a gender neutral message, so to speak: “Focus on jobs, not our vaginas.”
The demonstration was in response to a Republican-led bill that would require any woman wanting an abortion to first have an ultrasound.
“One thing I know you won’t find in women’s vaginas is 250,000 jobs,” said Jennifer Epps-Addison, referencing Walker’s 2010 campaign pledge to create a quarter-million jobs in his first term. Democrats have derided the governor for, to date, falling well short of that goal. “We are losing economic security for our residents and we believe our Legislature should be focused on creating opportunities for jobs, and not on regulating women’s vaginas.”
The bill does add at least one part-time job at the state Department of Health Services, which projected it would need to add an employee at $41,000 to put together a list of health-care providers offering free ultrasounds, per the legislation.
This protest picked up where a similar demonstration at the state Capitol left off. At the Senate budget debate two weeks ago, protesters tried unsuccessfully to storm the Senate floor. That incident led to eight arrests.
Several police cars were parked outside Walker’s home Tuesday, and two police officers approached Epps-Addison after she knocked on Walker’s front door to confront the governor.
No one answered, but Walker has said he would sign the bill.
Dozens of drivers honked their horns in support of the protesters in the suburban Wauwatosa neighborhood. Several others rolled up their windows as they drove by.
While the bill was pushed for by the religious right, Epps-Addison said she’s heard from women on both sides of the aisle who oppose what they see as the bill’s invasive nature.
“This bill literally inserts a vaginal probe into women’s vaginas in the era of small government,” she said. “We think that’s a perversion of conservative values.”
The bill doesn’t require trans-vaginal ultrasounds, but opponents say that’s how most ultrasounds are performed before pregnancies reach 12 weeks — when most abortions occur.
Many conservatives detest abortion, and the bill’s supporters say it will protect life by showing pregnant women the heartbeat of their unborn child. The requirement, they say, gives women the opportunity to see the life they are contemplating taking.
Nine states require an ultrasound before abortion, while 14 others require an abortion provider to give women the opportunity to get an ultrasound, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a sexual health public policy organization that supports access to abortions.
While the bill arguably adds a hurdle to abortions, unlike new legislation in other states, the measure doesn’t restrict abortions.
In North Dakota, for instance, Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed a law that prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected — about six weeks into a pregnancy.
In Austin, Texas, thousands of protesters went to the Capitol on Monday to protest a bill that would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks. A vote on that bill was delayed last week after state Sen. Wendy Davis spoke for more than 10 hours to prevent a vote before the midnight deadline.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, called back legislators for a special session to pass the bill.
“The world has seen images of pro-abortion activists screaming, cheering,” Perry said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “Going forward, we have to match their intensity but do it with grace and civility.”
Civility was not on display in several of the protester’s signs Tuesday. One sign featured Walker’s face superimposed on a gynecologist, along with a woman waiting for an examination.
“We’re not going away, on election day you’ll pay,” the protesters yelled outside Walker’s house.
The Wisconsin Public Health Association, Wisconsin Medical Society and Wisconsin Hospital Association registered against the bill, saying it could lead to a slippery slope of the Legislature interfering with best medical practices.
The Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians said the legislation interferes with the physician-patient relationship – an argument that detractors of Obamacare have used for the federal health care overhaul.
Pro-life activists say it is only right that abortion providers should perform an ultrasound before killing and removing an unborn child.
In addition to requiring ultrasounds before abortions, the bill requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges within 30 miles of the clinics in which they work. Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin said its Appleton clinic would close because none of their physicians meet the requirement, leaving three abortion clinics in the state.
Rep. Pat Strachota, R-West Bend, has said those providers could get admitting privileges.
Strachota has said the bill provides important information and safeguards to women considering whether to make the “life-changing decision to have an abortion.”
“The use of ultrasound technology helps inform clinical decision-making and enhances the safety of abortion care,” the lawmaker said in a recent statement. “Under this bill, after all the options are explained to her by the doctor, a woman then chooses the method of ultrasound she prefers. It does not require that the woman have a certain type of ultrasound. The choice is entirely hers.”
Contact Ekvall at [email protected]