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Reality Check: Barrett ad says Walker waging 'war on women'

WISC-TV analysis finds ad exaggerates affect of laws

MADISON, Wis. - Milwaukee Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett comes out firing in a new ad where he said Republican Gov. Scott Walker is waging a "war on women."

But do the laws affect women in the way the ad claims?

A WISC-TV analysis found that in an effort to show fervor and go after the women's vote, Barrett exaggerates what two recently passed laws actually do.

"Legislation that was on the books dealing with equal pay for equal work, to ensure that women will be treated fairly in this state, pow! He (Walker) goes after that," Barrett said in the ad.

WISC-TV found this is misleading. First, it's important to know what Wisconsin Act 20 actually did. It didn't just deal with women. The law allowed anyone who believed they were a victim of discrimination on the basis of gender, race, religion, disability, age, sexual orientation or other factors to sue their employer in state court for damages, something that was not allowed before 2009.

This is not the same thing as the Equal Pay Act, a federal law prohibiting employers from paying one gender less than another. Wisconsin Act 20 law did allow women, or anyone else discriminated against, another avenue to sue, but it was not the only option. Lawsuits can still be brought in federal court or cases taken before state administrative judges who could order parties to pay back pay or legal fees. It's also worth noting the law has never once been used in state court.

"Legislation to make it more difficult for women to have the most intimate conversations with their health care providers, pow! He goes after that," Barrett said in the ad.

VIDEO: Reality Check: Barrett ad says Walker waging 'war on women'

WISC-TV found this needs clarification. While not making it clear in the ad, Barrett is referring to a bill that affects conversations about abortions, not any health care decision. The bill requires women seeking an abortion to consult with a doctor on their own, without family or friends present.

Proponents of the measure said it allows the doctor to determine if someone is pressuring the woman to have an abortion, but many doctors said it interferes with the doctor-patient relationship. Doctors who break the law could be charged with a felony.

What is shown on the screen in the ad makes it seem like this was done in secret. The bill went through state committees and was voted on in open session, although the governor did sign the bill privately.

As the recall process continues, WISC-TV will be tracking the candidates' claims and the ads supporting them. Every Thursday at 6 p.m., tune in for a WISC-TV "Reality Check." If you have an idea for a Reality Check, send it to   

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