(CNSNews.com) - The Wisconsin State Assembly, controlled by Republicans, has passed a bill requiring hospitals, regardless of religious affiliation, to provide emergency contraception to rape victims who want it.
The vote was 61-35, with 16 Republicans joining Democrats to pass the bill. One Democrat voted against it.
The bill now returns to the Democratic-controlled state Senate, where it is expected to pass easily. Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, is expected to sign it into law.
"It's a sad day for Wisconsin," said Peggy Hamill, state director of Pro-Life Wisconsin. "The state Assembly has shamefully ignored the fate of embryonic children by forcing Wisconsin hospitals to dispense a known abortion-causing drug to vulnerable women. In so doing, they have trampled upon the conscience rights of hospitals and hospital workers in blatant disregard of our federal and state constitutions which guarantee freedom of religious expression and liberty of conscience."
Pro-Life Wisconsin called it an added insult that the bill passed the day after the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion.
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin supported the bill, saying, "Victims of rape and incest deserve immediate access to safe, effective methods of pregnancy prevention."
The group pointed to statistics showing that nationally, over 300,000 women are raped each year, resulting in over 25,000 unintended pregnancies and approximately 16,000 abortions. About 22,000 of these pregnancies could be prevented if all women who were raped used emergency contraception, says the Web site of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.
While Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin pointed to a public opinion poll showing "overwhelming support for emergency contraception," Pro-Life Wisconsin applauded the 35 lawmakers who "courageously held firm to their pro-life convictions and their sworn constitutional oaths."
"That so many of their colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, flouted both their moral duty to protect preborn children and their legal duty to protect conscience rights is cause for great frustration and anger in the pro-life community," said Matt Sande, PLW's director of legislation. "This is a day that will be long remembered," he added.
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