Back in November, we discussed troubling signs that Wisconsin Republican leaders were angling to ditch two pieces of pro-life legislation for fear that the state’s abortion champions would blow a gasket over them. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald attempted to reassure pro-lifers that the bills (banning sex-selection abortions and protecting against involuntarily subsidizing abortion) just needed some fine-tuning, after which Republicans would bring them back.
Well, it now looks like Fitzgerald is already trying to weasel out of that New Year’s resolution:
The leader of the Wisconsin Senate said votes are unlikely next year on two anti-abortion bills that were originally scheduled to be taken up in November but hastily pulled after a Democratic senator [Jon Erpenbach] promised “all out hell” if they were debated.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he didn’t know if there was enough support among Republicans to bring the bills back.
“I know there’s some concern that some of the bills are passing and are tied up in court and never take effect and we’re just spinning our wheels,” Fitzgerald told The Associated Press. “I want to make sure we do it right.” […]
“I don’t know where the support is to bring those bills back at this time,” Fitzgerald told the AP Friday. He said he wanted to talk individually with lawmakers to see where they stand on them. Republicans can only lose one vote and still have enough to pass a bill.
Let me help you out with a few things, Senator. The surest way to know a bill will “never take effect” is if you never try to enact it in the first place. Regarding your fellow Republicans, the correct answer to “where they stand on them” is “it had damn well better be unequivocal support,” considering that fighting abortion is one of their own party’s core tenets, and it is fully within the majority’s power to enact them. And as Brian Sikma at Media Trackers points out:
Even Sen. Dale Schultz, a moderate Republican who regularly breaks ranks with the GOP caucus on big issues, has signed on as a co-author to the bill that prohibits taxpayer money from paying for abortions through government worker health insurance. Schultz’s support of the bill would appear to mollify Fitzgerald’s worry that he doesn’t have enough votes in his caucus to pass the legislation.
But what’s the main reason we should “know where the support is to bring those bills back”? Because you told us when these fears originally surfaced:
This session is the right time to work on “tough” abortion bills, says GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.
“We have a pro-life majority in the state Senate right now, and because of that there’s always a willingness to work on that type of legislation,” Fitzgerald told “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com. Republicans also control the Assembly and the governor’s office.
Pretending to be at the mercy of one’s own senators would be suspicious enough, but to do so after another suspicious excuse, which was mitigated only by a promise that delay was strictly so the legislation could come back as strong as possible now, is classic politispeak for “go away because I just don’t want to deal with this.”
Wisconsin has seen a number of pro-life victories in recent years, including legislation banning webcam abortions, keeping abortion coverage out of the state’s ObamaCare exchange, protecting school district’s right to teach abstinence, requiring abortion-seekers to obtain ultrasounds, and imposing admitting privilege requirements on abortionists (though the last one is tied up in court). Reductions in state subsidies have helped close four Planned Parenthood locations, and the state’s abortion rate is dropping.
And so far, the public approves. A November poll conducted for Wisconsin Right to Life by Public Opinion Strategies found that support for generally banning abortion beats support for generally elective abortion 55% to 45%, and that Wisconsinites back ultrasound requirements 47% to 46%, admitting privileges requirements 58% to 31%, and 20-week bans 51% to 40%.
It’s true that those numbers don’t necessarily reflect how well support would withstand a prolonged scare campaign, but GOP state Sen. Glenn Grothman, who sponsored the conscience bill, demonstrates the simple answer to that – go on the offensive, and keep the extremism charge in the opposition’s court:
I’m sure that Jon Erpenbach and his fellow extremists would filibuster these bills as long as possible to make sure as many little girls are aborted as possible and some Republicans do not want to wait through these filibusters.
Personally, I don’t think framing and explaining the issue favorably is too much for his colleagues to grasp, but then, I’m operating from the premise that something more than vote-grabbing lip service should actually be done about abortion. If Scott Fitzgerald wants to convince pro-lifers he’s operating from the same premise, his first two strikes at bat haven’t cut it.