This week, I testified before the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety on Senate Bill 422. I believe Senate Bill 422 is a crucial step forward for Wisconsin to prioritize the rights of the unborn by prohibiting the unethical sale of fetal tissue, while protecting lifesaving research in Wisconsin.
As many of you may have seen, viral videos were released that showed members of Planned Parenthood speaking about selling body parts of children from abortions for profit. This despicable practice is already illegal under federal law, but there is a loophole in the federal law. Federal law only criminalizes the interstate sale of fetal tissue for profit, but does not address the intrastate sale. Without a state law to address the issue, Wisconsinites needed to wait on the federal government to take action. Along with many outraged citizens and legislators, I felt we needed to take action and pass a bill to ensure that unborn children are treated with dignity and that no one can profit from an abortion.
That is why I am a proud author of Senate Bill 422. This bill moves Wisconsin forward by creating a state law that criminalizes selling the remains of an unborn child for profit. In addition to criminalizing the profitable sale, my bill also requires the final disposition of fetal tissue. This means for abortions occurring in Wisconsin, facilities will be required to treat the remains with dignity.
Not only does Senate Bill 422 take a significant step to end the unethical sale of unborn remains, but it also elevates research standards in law for fetal tissue research. Fetal tissue research saves real lives in Wisconsin, across the nation, and around the world. Vaccines for polio, hepatitis A, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, and rabies have saved countless lives and were all created using research from fetal tissue. Research in this field continues in Wisconsin today on birth defects, the Zika virus, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, organ transplantation, asthma, heart failure, genetic disorders, and more vaccines. Research in this field has already saved lives and will continue to do so.
Wisconsin is a leader in ethical standards for research. Senate Bill 422 codifies this high ethical standard into law. By doing this, Senate Bill 422 protects both the lives of the unborn and the lifesaving research that occurs in the field of fetal tissue research. Under the bill, it is illegal to obtain tissue from research from an abortion clinic or a for-profit entity. This provision directly addresses the horrible leaked videos from Planned Parenthood, as the abortion clinics were working with a for-profit clinic known as StemExpress. The bill also makes it illegal to alter an abortion procedure to obtain tissue for research and requires the physician who performed the abortion to have no part in research. Finally, researchers in Wisconsin must have written documentation that the woman consented to an abortion before consenting to donating tissue and that all medical and privacy risks were made clear to the woman.
During the public hearing, I heard testimony from researchers who were worried their own moral beliefs would penalize them in the workplace if they did not want to work with fetal tissue. Senate Bill 422 addresses this claim by creating a conscience clause for researchers. This clause states that no researcher can be compelled to work on research using fetal tissue if it conflicts with their moral or religious beliefs.
Senate Bill 422 was modeled after a successful bill in North Carolina. The bill went through their legislature on a bi-partisan vote and was hailed by the pro-life community for the work it does to end the profitable sale of fetal tissue. While this bill was modeled after the success in North Carolina, the research standards this bill elevates into law are unique to Wisconsin. Other states have passed bans on the use of fetal tissue, regardless of how the tissue was obtained. In these states, the law was never enacted because of expensive law suits over the constitutionality of the law itself. These legal concerns largely shaped Senate Bill 422, as I believe it is a legally defensible bill, while still creating a new ethical standard for research that is unique to Wisconsin.
Wisconsin is now and always has been a leader for our country. Senate Bill 422 continues this leadership to criminalize the despicable practice of selling the remains of unborn children for profit and codifies our high standards for ethical research into law. It is my hope that other states will look to Wisconsin and pass similar ethical standards for research.
If you have any questions about this bill, please contact my office for more information.