Though cosponsored by nearly a third of the Wisconsin Legislature, the Heal Without Harm Initiative – a set of bills that would ensure fetal tissue research in Wisconsin continues without controversy – lingers in committee without action. The Fetal Remains Respect Act (SB 423/AB 549) and the Unborn Child Disposition and Anatomical Gift Act (SB 424/AB 550), authored by Sen. Terry Moulton (R-Chippewa Falls) and Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc), would ban the sale and use of body parts from aborted babies and inform parents about the ability to donate their miscarried or stillborn child’s tissue.
Initial introduction of the Senate bills was delayed by legislative leaders for months. Even though the bills received a hearing before the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety in early November, Committee Chair Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) has yet to hold a vote on the bills. Senator Wanggaard’s office has indicated that the Chair will not schedule a committee vote until a majority of Senators consent to vote for the bill on the Senate floor.
The newly-announced standard by Chair Wanggaard’s office is unprecedented for bills this session. Already the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety has forwarded around 40 proposals, with over a quarter yet to be voted on by the full Senate. Several of those advanced by the Committee have questionable support, such as revisions to Wisconsin’s current conceal and carry law. No similar “majority” standard seems to have been imposed on these bills’ advancement.
Even with 39 cosponsors and a wealth of members of the public and legislators supporting these bills at the public hearing, there is no action to move the Heal Without Harm bills through Committee. As there are no legislative rules that require a bill to have sufficient votes within a chamber before it can be voted out of committee, it is presumed that legislative leaders are responsible for the delay. It is unconscionable that Republican leaders are thwarting a measure supported by the state’s major pro-life organizations representing tens of thousands of pro-life voters across the state.
The bills’ supporters, known as the Heal Without Harm Coalition, are urging individuals to contact Senator Wanggaard and Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau). Supporters are urged to demand that both Senators stop obstructing the democratic process and hold a committee vote on SB 423 and SB 424.
Once the Heal Without Harm Legislative Initiative has passed through the Senate Committee, supporters plan to urge similar action on the Assembly companion bills. Wisconsin should be a place where no researcher will need to operate under the cloud of controversy that the trade of aborted fetal tissue creates, and no patient will ever face the decision of choosing life over conscience. This can only occur if the state’s legislative leaders allow the democratic process to move forward.
To learn more about the HWH Coalition and Initiative, visit healwithoutharm.org.