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Wisconsin Abortion Bill Would Allow Fathers to Sue Doctors

The Short of It

Legislation being considered in Wisconsin would ban abortions after 20 weeks "post-fertilization" and would allow fathers to sue doctors who performed an abortion after that cut-off. (Note that this is actually what doctors call "22 weeks pregnant," since pregnancy is counted from the first day of a woman's last menstrual period, not from fertilization.)

The Lowdown

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) has said he will sign Assembly Bill 237 if the State Legislature votes to pass it. The bill is already controversial because it would make abortions after 20 weeks post-fertilization illegal—doctors who perform them could be charged with a felony and fined as much as $10,000 or spend up to three years in prison. And a lesser-known aspect of the bill is that a man who fathered a fetus aborted after those 20 weeks could sue the doctor as well.

"The bill allows the woman on whom the abortion was performed or attempted, and the father of the unborn child, unless the pregnancy is the result of sexual assault or incest, to bring a claim for damages against a person who violates these limitations and requirements," says the bill.

One of the biggest points of contention is that the bill states that fetuses feel pain after 20 weeks, but medical studies suggest that isn't true. The ban also doesn't include exceptions for cases of rape and incest.

The Upshot

The pro-choice community is obviously against this bill. "Families who experience a pregnancy that has gone tragically wrong deserve help from doctors and access to needed health care without interference from politicians," said Planned Parenthood's Nicole Safar to the Journal Sentinel. "The medical community uniformly opposes this bill because it prevents physicians from providing individualized care to patients based on their own medical circumstances."

And it's surprising that fathers—even those not married to or in a relationship with the mothers—would be given rights to sue in these cases, since many people consider it a woman's right and her right alone to choose whether or not to have an abortion.

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