Anti-Abortion Wisconsin Republicans Have Some Thoughts About Women

Legislators cited biblical pregnancies and veterinary expertise, and said pregnant people—not bans—were the problem.

Rep. Ron Tusler cited a few biblical figures who he alleged were rightly forced to carry pregnancies despite their advanced—or young—ages.Screenshot/WiseEye.org

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Anti-abortion Wisconsin Republicans say the darndest things. 

While debating a bill in the state legislature that would allow a public vote on a 14-week abortion ban—which passed today, but which Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has pledged to veto before it can reach voters in April—they compared women to animals and biblical figures, and said that if people get pregnant outside of rape or incest, it’s their fault.

Rep. Joel Kitchens, a co-author of the bill, said that his prior career as a veterinarian made him the most qualified person in the room to comment on women’s reproductive systems and the ethics of abortion, according to video shared on X by regional news outlet Heartland Signal

“In my veterinary career, I did thousands of ultrasounds on animals, determining pregnancy and that kind of thing, so I think I know mammalian fetal development better than probably anyone here—and in my mind, there’s absolutely no question that that’s a life,” Kitchens said. 

 

 
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Rep. Ron Tusler tried to clap back at a Democratic colleague who said she “couldn’t think of one situation in the Bible where God forced a woman to have a baby contrary to her personal health.” Not so, he argued, pointing to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist (who he notes was estimated to be about 88 when she became pregnant); Mary, the mother of Jesus (estimated to be 13 or 14 at the time of her pregnancy); and Sarah, wife of Abraham, who was 90—as Tusler said, an “elderly lady, certainly contrary to her personal health to be having a baby, but here it happens.” While he went on his monologue, the colleague who he was responding to, Rep. Christine Sinicki, appeared behind him, shaking her head and laughing, seemingly in disbelief.

Rep. Amanda Nedweski, another co-author, said that while she supports “common-sense health education about how a woman becomes pregnant and how to prevent pregnancy,” and access to contraception, if women get pregnant outside of rape or incest, they should essentially just grin and bear it: “At the end of the day…unless you have been in a tragic situation outside of your control, if a woman doesn’t want to become pregnant, there are choices involved in that.” 

Anti-abortion lawmakers like these three, who insist that abortion access makes life too easy for people who can get pregnant, need not worry. Thanks to rising abortion restrictions post-Dobbs, girls and women of all ages have been forced to carry pregnancies that were results of rape and posed risks to their lives—like the 10-year-old rape victim who had to travel to Indiana in the summer of 2022 to obtain an abortion because it was banned in her home state of Ohio, or Kate Cox, the Texas woman who fled the state to obtain an emergency abortion after Texas’ highest court refused to allow her one, despite the fact that her fetus was diagnosed with a chromosomal disorder and wasn’t expected to survive more than a week at most. 

And while some other Republicans’ arguments in support of the measure focused more on the idea of letting voters decide the issue for themselves, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, multiple polls have already shown that the majority of Wisconsin voters believe abortion should be legal in most cases, as do the majority of Americans. That’s probably why every state referendum that has put the question of abortion rights to voters since Dobbs has passed.

As my colleague Jeremy Schulman said in our internal Slack channel when he first shared the clips: “The best way for abortion rights advocates to win these arguments is to turn a camera on in a state house and wait for Republicans to talk.” Given the combination of President Biden’s dismal poll numbers, the looming threat of Trump 2.0, and the Biden campaign’s renewed push to make abortion rights a key part of his re-election campaign strategy, Democrats might just want to start paying more attention to these absurd soundbites coming out of statehouses across the country. 

In spite of all this, know that if you live in Wisconsin, abortion remains available before 20 weeks of pregnancy.

This story has been updated to reflect that Wisconsin law states abortion is illegal after 20 weeks of pregnancy, not after 22 weeks, as previously mentioned.

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