Rep. Petersen discusses state anti-abortion bill
By State Rep. Kevin Petersen
Few Supreme Court decisions are as well-known as the one issued on Jan. 22, 1973 in Roe v. Wade.
The decision balanced a woman’s right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment and her choice to have an abortion.
Furthermore, the decision weighed two legitimate interests of the state while regulating abortions – protecting prenatal life and protecting women’s health. According to the Supreme Court, a state’s interest of the unborn child’s life becomes stronger as a pregnancy progresses.
Initially, the ruling tied state regulation to a pregnancy’s third trimester. The court has since changed the framework of the third trimester to an unborn child’s viability – a baby’s ability to live outside the womb.
Roe v. Wade sparked over four decades of debate, including the morality of pro-life vs. pro-choice, states’ rights under the Constitution, and the science of conception and distinction of what is a fetus and what is a baby. States began charting their rights in the Pennsylvania Abortion Act of 1982 which included four provisions, namely spousal notification, parental consent for minors, a 24-hour waiting period and information disclosure.
Planned Parenthood tried to have the courts overturn the Pennsylvania law. In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments presented by both sides in Planned Parenthood of Southern Pennsylvania v. Casey. On a 5-4 decision, except for spousal notification, the Court upheld the provisions in the Pennsylvania Abortion Act.
Since 1973, numerous advances have occurred in medicine. Science has concluded that by the fifth month of pregnancy, an unborn child is able to sense and feel pain. Additionally, the New England Journal of Medicine published research stating preterm children at 22 weeks gestation or 20 weeks after fertilization have a 23.1 percent survival rate when receiving active treatment.
Both the United States Constitution via the 14th Amendment and the Wisconsin Constitution Article I Section 1 grant equal protection under the law. Therefore, it becomes the state’s interest – its constitutional duty – to protect those unable to protect themselves.
I have co-sponsored Assembly Bill 237/Senate Bill 179 named the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. It prohibits the abortion of an unborn baby capable of feeling pain.
According to analysis written by the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau, “The bill prohibits any person from performing or inducing, or attempting to perform or induce, an abortion when the unborn child is considered to be capable of experiencing pain, unless the woman is undergoing a medical emergency. Under the bill, the unborn child is capable of experiencing pain if the probable postfertilization age of the unborn child is 20 or more weeks.”
Twenty-one other states have enacted similar laws which protect unborn children. When the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act reaches the Assembly floor, my vote, reflecting the viewpoint from a majority of my constituents, will be yes.
People are incensed when learning of an act of animal cruelty. Protests arise over the way enemy combatants are treated. Wisconsin eliminated the death penalty because it was deemed a cruel and unusual punishment. It is time for our state to accord the same empathy for an unborn child’s pain.