(AP/Jeffrey Phelps)

Scott Walker's deranged new low: Force women to carry their rapists' pregnancies and let men sue over abortion

The likely GOP presidential contender is setting himself up as the right's new Todd Akin


Katie McDonough
June 3, 2015 10:07PM (UTC)

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said this week that he was prepared to sign a measure banning abortion at 20 weeks without an exception for rape or incest because it’s only "in the initial months” that victims are “most concerned” about access to care.

Walker, who is expected to announce his run for president at the end of the month, said that such an exception didn't matter and that he would sign the bill regardless.

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“I mean, I think for most people who are concerned about that, it’s in the initial months where they’re most concerned about it,” Walker said. “In this case, again, it’s an unborn life, it’s an unborn child and that’s why we feel strongly about it. I’m prepared to sign it either way that they send it to us.”

The measure, which the state House and Senate will vote on next week, mirrors the federal legislation that caused a rift among House Republicans earlier this year. And this bill, like Arizona Rep. Trent Franks’ version, is designed around the medically discredited claim that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks.

The bill also instructs physicians to “terminate the pregnancy in the manner that… provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive.”

From the measure:

Under the bill, the unborn child is capable of experiencing pain if the probable postfertilization age of the unborn child is 20 or more weeks. When the unborn child is considered capable of experiencing pain and the pregnant woman is undergoing a medical emergency, the bill requires the physician to terminate the pregnancy in the manner that, in reasonable medical judgment, provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive.

And as Laura Bassett at the Huffington Post first noted, the measure also allows men to sue for emotional damages. More from the bill (emphasis mine):

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. A prosecuting attorney may also bring an action for injunctive relief for intentional or reckless violations of the limitations and requirements.

Last week, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found Idaho's 20 week ban to be "unconstitutional because it categorically bans some abortions before viability."

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Roe v. Wade holds viability, as a legal concept, somewhere between 22 and 24 weeks. But viability is much more complicated than this legal framing would suggest, as Dr. Stephen Chasen, the director of high-risk obstetrics at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell Medical Center whose practice focuses on prenatal diagnosis of fetal abnormalities, told me last month. Commenting on a study about survival rates of very premature babies, he said: “The bottom line is that viability has never been a set number, it has always been determined by doctors based on the pregnancy.”

And that’s why laws that interfere in a patient’s access to care and a doctor’s medical judgment -- like the 20 week ban working its way through the Wisconsin legislature -- are so dangerous. Dr. Kathleen Morrell, a New York-based OB-GYN, put it this way: “You can’t legislate this [kind of medical decision]. A woman and her family need to be able to have all options available to them.”

But Scott Walker called the pre-viability ban “rational and reasonable."

"Whether you're pro-life or not, that's a good time to say that shouldn't be legal after a time when an unborn child can literally feel pain," Walker told CNN last week.


Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

MORE FROM Katie McDonoughFOLLOW kmcdonovgh

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Abortion Incest Rape Scott Walker Violence Against Women Wisconsin

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