Editor's note: This article was written by Daniel Davis and Brooke Carlucci.
The Wisconsin Senate voted yesterday to ban all abortions after 20 weeks of gestation. The vote passed 19-14 along party lines, with Republicans constituting the majority. Governor Scott Walker, a likely presidential candidate, commented that he will sign the bill if and when it reaches his desk.
"I believe that at 5 months, when an unborn child can feel pain according to many people who testified and commented on this, that's an appropriate time not only for people like me who are pro-life, but I think many other Americans think that's a reasonable position," Walker told reporters Saturday during a stop in Iowa as he prepares his run for the presidency.
The House, which is also Republican-led, has yet to decide whether to take up the bill in June or wait until the fall. Wisconsin would become the fifteenth state to pass such a ban.
This legislative move comes on the heels of a pro-life victory in Texas, in which the same 20-week abortion restriction was upheld by a federal court, along with tighter restrictions on abortion clinics. Similar bans in other states had previously been blocked.
Supreme Court precedent allows for states to restrict abortions during the gestational period where babies become viable. Wisconsin legislators have defended this bill on viability grounds, as well as on the basis of fetal pain capability:
"The bill as it's drafted, I think, has a lot of merit," Vos said at a news conference. "I do not certainly support the idea of allowing unborn children who feel pain to be aborted inside the womb."
Vos said it would be worthwhile to spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars defending the law in court from expected federal lawsuits challenging its constitutionality.
"Protecting life is something that we shouldn't necessarily just put a price tag on," Vos said.
Only one percent of Wisconsin's abortions take place after 20 weeks, so the bill would only slightly curb the number of abortions. But the bill's significance stretches far beyond its immediate effects, as it points to a rising tide of pro-life sentiments in America and to real legislative progress on the issue of life.
In addition to banning abortions after 20 weeks, the Wisconsin bill criminalizes abortions performed after the 20-week mark, threatening fines of up to $10,000 and prison sentences of up to three and a half years. It also allows the biological parents of babies that were aborted after 20 weeks to sue the doctor for personal injury or psychological distress.
A national ban on abortions after 20 weeks passed the U.S. House last May. It, too, passed along party lines: 242 to 184.