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Controversial abortion bill among several Walker quietly signed into law

By: Aaron Dimick, WEAU 13 News Staff Email
By: Aaron Dimick, WEAU 13 News Staff Email

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Controversy is brewing after Governor Scott Walker signed four hot button bills Thursday.

The new laws affect everything from abortion to schools and the workplace.

The governor signed the bills Thursday night with the news breaking Friday afternoon.

But democrats and Planned Parenthood are crying fowl, saying Walker signed the bills in secret.

They’re calling the move anti-women and cowardly by not making the signings public.

But supporters for the governor say the new laws will help women and children.

“The four bills Governor Walker signed in secret last night is curtailing access to women’s health services and access to women's health information,” said Nicole Safar, the Public Policy Director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin.

Safar said the four bills have been the culmination of Wisconsin republicans’ 18th month attack on womens’ health.

“So if he's trying to drive this conservative agenda through while he's still in power, it makes sense he would do it in secret,” Safar said.

The first bill requires doctors to speak with a woman seeking an abortion alone to ensure no one is forcing her into the procedure.

Another bill comes into play with Health Care Reform in 2014, banning abortion coverage sold through a health insurance exchange, except in cases of rape, incest or medical necessity.

“What the law would do is take away private insurance coverage for abortions in Wisconsin,” Safar said.

Republican Rep. Kathleen Bernier of Chippewa Falls said she supports the bills.

“I consider it safeguarding a woman's right and prerogatives to have full and factual information,” Bernier said.

She said abortion is no easy decision, and the bills would make sure women in Wisconsin are making a thoughtful choice.

“Just taking a few moments to step back and say is this is the only decision I can make to help me in my future. I think it's showing a lot of care for women,” Bernier said.

Safar said women voters will take action against the governor with the June 5 recall election.

“Wisconsin women are watching and we'll be voting. I think he's underestimated the impact these laws will have on women,” Safar said.

Pro-Life Wisconsin is also showing support for the bills.

WEAU 13 News left messages for Governor Walker but haven’t heard back.

You can see more on the other bills that were signed posted below.

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ANTI-ABORTION BILL

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker has signed a pair of Republican bills requiring doctors to consult privately with women seeking abortions and blocking abortion coverage through health care exchanges.

The first bill requires doctors to speak with a woman seeking an abortion alone to ensure no one is forcing her into the procedure.

The other bill bans abortion coverage in policies sold through a health insurance exchange except in cases of rape, incest or medical necessity. The exchange is set up as a marketplace for small businesses and individuals to shop for health insurance coverage. It's set to begin in 2014 under last year's landmark federal health care law.

Walker signed both measures Thursday but announced the signings Friday.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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ABSTINENCE BILL

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill that requires schools that teach sex education to stress abstinence as the only reliable way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

The Republican bill allows sex ed teachers to ignore contraception completely. Current state law requires schools that choose to teach sex education to use a multi-faceted curriculum that includes contraception use.

Pro-Life Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Catholic Conference back the bill. Opponents say the legislation is foolish and unrealistic.

Walker, a Republican, signed the bill Thursday but announced it Friday.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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SCHOOL VOUCHERS

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill that limits expansion of Wisconsin's school voucher program.

The voucher program subsidizes private education for students in struggling school districts. The program had been limited to the city of Milwaukee, but Republicans included new qualifiers in the state budget that extended the program throughout Milwaukee County and the city of Racine.

Opponents complained the new criteria was so broad students across the state could qualify. Rep. Robin Vos, a Republican who co-chairs the Legislature's budget committee, said that was never the intent and GOP lawmakers passed a bill that limits voucher participation to school districts in the program when the bill took effect. Any additional districts would need separate legislation to join.

Walker signed the bill Thursday but announced the signing Friday.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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DISCRIMINATION DAMAGES

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill that prohibits workers from collecting damages in employment discrimination cases.

Under current state law, employees who prevail in discrimination lawsuits can collect between $50,000 and $300,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. The Republican bill blocks anyone from collecting such damages in employment discrimination suits.

The state Department of Workforce Development could still award an employee back pay, costs and attorney fees, however.

Democrats say the bill hurts women who might suffer discrimination in the workplace.

Walker signed the bill Thursday but announced the signing Friday. His spokesman says it was easier to include the announcement in a broader release noting the governor signed dozens of bills over the two days.


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