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Proposed Wisconsin Law Gives Power to Family Members to Prevent Abortions (Updated)

While the issue of abortion remains a hotly contested political topic, certain practices are found to be universally abhorrent. For example, the practice of aborting a fetus because of its gender—also known as “sex-selective abortion” and almost always favoring males over females—is generally viewed as a cruel and inhumane practice. There are few credible reports of sex-selective abortion happening in the United States and, even if all are true, does not represent a larger, societal problem.

Still that is not enough for Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman, who has put forth a bill in the Senate that would make sex-selective abortion illegal. Grothman is a pro-life crusader who has a number of bills under consideration involving the practice. While, on the surface, preventing sex-selective abortion sounds like a good law, it is not without its critics.

According to the progressive blog Uppity Wisconsin, the fear is that a section of the bill paves a way for family members to obtain an injunction from the court preventing the procedure. There is no clear language in the bill that determines how a “mother, father, or grandparent” would prove the claim that the abortion is in fact sex-selective. They also suggest that by simply filing the claim a pregnant woman would have to provide “personal medical records for court inspection, and force [her] to answer to a court for her lawful decision to end a pregnancy.”

The specific language is found in Section 2, subsection 3(b) which states that the “court may issue an order enjoining a person from performing an abortion contrary to” the new law. The analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau published with the bill states “the mother, father, or grandparent of an unborn child that is aborted in a sex-selective abortion may also seek injunction relief, wherein the court may enjoin the person who performed the abortion from performing another sex-selective abortion.” So, it seems that the injunction can only be filed by a family member against an abortion provider after-the-fact, to prevent further sex-selective abortions rather than stopping the first.

However, according to Senator Grothman, "the analysis is in error." When asked by Opposing Views if family members could prevent an abortion under this law, he replied, "I believe if you read the bill they can do that." In fact he doubts that anyone who reads the language of the bill could interpret it any other way. When asked about how one would prove the abortion is sex-selective, Senator Grothman replied "The court would have to determine that." 

This article was updated to include comments from the Senator, who was unavailable at press time. 


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