Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has thrown his support behind an anti-abortion measure that’s currently moving through the state legislature, saying he will sign the bill into law if it makes it to his desk. SB 206 would require women to undergo an ultrasound before getting an abortion — which would mandate an invasive transvaginal probe for some of the women who seek early abortions in their first trimester — and force one of the state’s last abortion clinics to close its doors.
“I don’t have any problem with ultrasound,” Walker told reporters on Tuesday in Milwaukee. “I think most people think ultrasounds are just fine.”
Forced ultrasound bills mandate a medically unnecessary procedure that would otherwise be left up to the discretion of a woman and her doctor. Medical experts, including the largest national group representing thousands of OB-GYNs across the country, are opposed to this type of legislation because they say it interferes with their work and compromises their relationships with patients. “All of a sudden, the Senate is full of doctors,” Wisconsin Sen. Tim Cullen (D) said in reference to SB 206’s advancement.
And, even though the lawmakers who push for mandatory ultrasound measures sometimes deny it, these laws also require many women to undergo an invasive transvaginal probe. Before 12 weeks of pregnancy, a transvaginal ultrasound is the only way to detect a clear image — and, since the vast majority of women in the United States seek abortion services in their first trimester, those women must submit to an invasive probe in order to comply with these burdensome laws. Over the past year, reproductive rights advocates have repeatedly decried transvaginal ultrasound laws as “state sponsored rape.”
SB 206 doesn’t stop there. The proposed legislation also includes a provision that would impose additional restrictions on abortion clinics, which would ultimately force a Planned Parenthood clinic to shut down. Since there are only four health clinics in the entire state of Wisconsin that currently provide abortion care, SB 206 could end up severely limiting women’s reproductive access.
The anti-abortion measure was first introduced at the beginning of this month, and it has swiftly advanced in just over a week. Women’s health advocates are accusing the Wisconsin GOP of intentionally fast-tracking SB 206 so that its opponents won’t have enough time to mobilize against it. “This speed of passage sends a clear signal that these legislators want to deny any efforts to ensure due process and are refusing to allow sufficient time for medical providers, advocates, women and their partners to truly weigh in on the anticipated damaging effects of this legislation,” Sara Finger, the executive director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, said in a statement. Finger had less than 24 hours to analyze the legislation before testifying against it.
Walker is expected to follow through on his word to sign SB 206. Throughout his time in office, the GOP governor has approved several attacks on women’s health. Last year, Walker signed three different bills into law to limit abortion access and expand abstinence-only education. And his recent budget stripped family planning funding away from Planned Parenthood, forcing the women’s health organization to close force of its clinics in rural Wisconsin.