Say an obstetrician in Milwaukee was performing a routine ultrasound on a pregnant woman and tragically discovered that the fetus had a serious developmental disability. In Wisconsin, that doctor is legally (not to mention ethically) required to inform the patient.
However, if then-Rep. Scott Walker (R) had gotten his way, Wisconsin doctors who opposed abortion would have been allowed to withhold that information from the woman if the doctor feared she might get an abortion.
Along with 34 other lawmakers, Walker introduced AB 538 in September 1997. At the time, if a health care provider withheld information about a fetal disability while abortion was still an available option, they could be liable for the child’s future medical expenses. But AB 538 would have changed that.
According to the bill’s text:
This bill creates an immunity from a wrongful birth or wrongful life action for a person who commits an act or fails to commit an act and that act or omission results in the birth of a child because a woman did not undergo an abortion that she would have undergone had the person not committed the act or not failed to commit the act.
In other words, the bill would make it legal for pro-life doctors to withhold information from patients.
AB 538 was not passed, ultimately dying in April 1998 without receiving a floor vote.
However, Walker and 28 colleagues tried again in 2001, re-introducing the same legislation with AB 360. It met the same demise as AB 538, though not before being approved by the Family Law Committee.
Bills allowing doctors to lie to patients in the name of opposing abortion aren’t the only pieces of pro-life legislation Walker sponsored during his nine years in the Wisconsin State Assembly. In 1997, he helped introduce a bill (which passed into law) to ban so-called partial birth abortions. The following year, Walker introduced “conscience clause” legislation that would have allowed medical professionals to deny patients medical services such as contraception if they objected on medical grounds. Though the bill failed, he introduced it again in 1999, and after that failed, once more in 2001, when it failed a third time.