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Wisconsin reproductive rights activists speak out against 14-week abortion ban in state assembly public hearing

By staff

Madison, WI – On January 22, pro-choice activists from across the state, medical providers and community members flooded a public hearing for the Wisconsin State Assembly Committee on Health, Aging and Long-Term Care.

The choice activists were there to oppose an anti-abortion referendum being added to Wisconsin’s April 2024 election ballot. The referendum would ban abortion six weeks earlier than the current state statute, making accessing abortion services even more challenging in the state.

Those who attended in opposition to Assembly Bill 975 were met with the harsh reality of the political climate in Wisconsin. The public hearing felt more like a reality TV show than legal proceedings. Representative Amanda Nedeweski, a co-author of the 14-week abortion ban started the hearing with her testimony, where she stated, “I’m not going to debate the science of biology here but as a mother…I have a really hard time believing that somebody who doesn’t know they’re pregnant at 14 weeks wants to know. Maybe they just don’t want to know.”

Nedeweski was supported by most of the members of the committee and the anti-abortion community members in the crowd who called those speaking out about the bill “murderers” and “heartless.” At one point in the meeting Representative David Murphy referred to an activist, from Pro-Life Wisconsin, as his “friend” and Representative Gae Dresser put her palms together as if she was praying, while a community member read verses from the Bible.

Pro-choice activists continued to testify despite the grossly apparent biases of the committee.

“We believe it is our responsibility to hold politicians accountable when they are making choices that are harmful to the community and that is why I stand before you today,” said Carly Klein, outreach co-chair from Reproductive Justice Action Milwaukee (RJAM). “Even with abortion being legal again in our state, people are still being forced to carry out pregnancies due to the barriers of cost, mandatory waiting periods, and lack of access in rural communities.”

Klein encouraged committee members to, “be on the right side of history,” and to not only oppose the proposed bill but to vote in favor of the Reproductive Freedom Act (RFA), a grouping of assembly bills that would expand abortion access for Wisconsinites. Klein ended her testimony by informing the committee members, “We will be reaching out to each of you personally to discuss your support of the RFA,” letting the politicians know that they were ready to apply pressure.

“I believe that pregnancy should always be voluntary, that pregnant people should have access to safe and compassionate medical care, and that the government should not legislate the conditions under which pregnant people are allowed to access that care,” said Caitlin Benedetto, from Madison Abortion and Reproductive Rights Coalition for Healthcare (MARRCH). “People feel we are going backward. They feel angry and dehumanized. I feel dehumanized, too.”

Benedetto ended her testimony by saying, “Please do not pass this bill. Please listen to the testimony of those here today who tell you that we do not want further restrictions on medical freedom and bodily autonomy. Please trust us to make our own choices about our health, our families, and our bodies.”

The public hearing concluded with the committee scheduling a vote for the following day, where the assembly bill passed by two votes. It will move on to the Committee on Rules.

Milwaukee and Madison-based organizers in RJAM and MARRCH are not ready to give up any time soon. They have combined efforts in their Beyond Roe campaign and plan to take the struggle statewide as they fight the uphill battle for unrestricted abortion access in Wisconsin.

They are currently gathering signatures for their statewide petition that demands no mandatory waiting periods for abortion services, access for rural communities, and access through telehealth services. Join the fight for abortion access by signing their petition here:

#MadisonWI #WomensMovement #ReproductiveRights #RJAM #MARRCH