May 22, 2023

WCC Opposes Abortion Expansion

On May 22, the WCC registered in opposition to SB-299 (Felzkowski, Mary) which would add exceptions for rape and incest to the current laws prohibiting abortion. The bill also adds a therapeutic abortion exception when: "1) pregnancy is

contraindicated due to a serious risk of death of the pregnant woman or of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the woman; or 2) in any circumstance in which the fetus has no chance of survival, including a physical condition of the fetus that makes survival of the fetus outside of the uterus not possible, an anembryonic pregnancy, an ectopic pregnancy, or a molar pregnancy." This bill is a companion to AB-175 (Rozar, Donna) which the WCC also opposed. The WCC had previously issued a press release addressing its concerns with the bill.

On May 22, the WCC registered in opposition to SB-298 (Roys, Kelda) which would repeal Wisconsin Statute 940.04 prohibiting abortion except to save the life of the mother. This is a companion bill to AB-218 (Subeck, Lisa) which the WCC also opposed.

WCC Supports Prohibiting State-Funded Abortion Activities

On May 22, the WCC registered in support of SB-300 (Jacque, Andre)/AB-247 (Behnke, Elijah) which places prohibitions on the use of public employees and public property for abortion activities. The bills await a public hearing.

In Case You Missed It: JFC Executive Sessions Begin for State Budget

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) has concluded public hearings on the 2023-25 state budget and has started holding executive sessions on the budgets of each state agency. The JFC has pulled 545 of Governor Evers’ proposals from the budget and instead will build its own version starting with the current (base) budget. 

Several of the budget items listed in the WCC’s 2023-25 Budget Issue Brief have not been removed from JFC consideration. These items include funding for postpartum Medicaid expansion, home visiting for at-risk families, child care, special education, homeless and housing grants, mental health and substance use treatment, Treatment Alternatives and Diversion, Opening Avenues to Reentry Success, PFAS cleanup, broadband expansion, and grants to repair or replace contaminated wells and aging septic systems. The final shape of these provisions will not be known until the JFC concludes its executive sessions and provides a bill to the Legislature by mid-June or later. 

Once passed by both houses of the Legislature, the bill will be sent to the Governor for his signature or veto. The WCC will continue to advocate the priorities listed in the WCC Budget Issue Brief, either as budget items or standalone bills.

WCC Public Policy Positions: Reject the Death Penalty

Here we elaborate on each of the WCC's 2023 Public Policy Positions. The complete document can be found below.

Reject the death penalty. The death penalty is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the human person. Wisconsin has acknowledged this when it abolished the death penalty in 1854 and must maintain this ban. 

Prior to 2018, the Church’s teaching on the death penalty noted a “growing public opposition to the death penalty, even when such a penalty is seen as a kind of ‘legitimate defense’ on the part of modern society. Modern society in fact has a means of effectively suppressing crime by rendering criminals harmless without denying them a chance to reform” (Evangelium Vitae). Furthermore, prior to 2018 the Catechism stated that the death penalty can only be justified if it is “the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor,” but those instances “are very rare, if not practically non-existent.” 

In 2018, Pope Francis asked for a reformulation of the Catechism’s teaching on the death penalty to better reflect the development of the doctrine that has taken place in recent times. 

The reformulated text follows in the footsteps of John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae and situates itself in continuity with the preceding Magisterium affirming that, “ending the life of a criminal as punishment for a crime is inadmissible because it attacks the dignity of the person, a dignity that is not lost even after having committed the most serious crimes” (Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith Letter no. 7). 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 2267 now states:

“Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good. 

Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the human person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens, but at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption. 

Consequently, the Church teaches, in light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.“ 

The Church has long acknowledged the need for civil authorities to ensure the protection of the public and the common good. Modern society has the ability to protect the community without using the death penalty. Incarceration and other punitive measures may be used to adequately protect the community while giving the offender a chance to reform. In other words, public officials have a duty to defend the safety and life of citizens. Yet, penal sanctions should be oriented to the rehabilitation and social reintegration of the person who committed the offense, not vengeance and retribution. 

In short, every person is made in the image and likeness of God. Thus, every person has inherent dignity and worth which must be protected from natural conception to death. And for Catholics, being pro-life means protecting all life, including the lives of those who have committed offenses against others and the community.

Updates from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

WCC 2023 Public Policy Positions

The WCC's 2023 Public Policy Positions are designed to inform state legislators, policy makers, and other interested parties about the Church's public policy positions and the principles that undergird them.

2023-24 Legislature and Citizen Resources

To find out who your legislators are, go to the Wisconsin State Legislature's home page and enter your address under Who Are My LegislatorsOther legislative resources include:

You can also follow state government by tuning in to WisconsinEye, the independent, nonpartisan news service that provides uncut video coverage of state government proceedings.

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