Democrats decry Republicans’ ‘gavel-out’ stance on abortion special session

MADISON, Wis. — Democrats are decrying the move by Legislative Republicans to stymie a special session Gov. Tony Evers called to undo the state’s abortion ban that has been in place since before the Civil War.

“To not even come in and debate it, for a party that totes itself as a party of freedom and small government, this is taking away the freedoms of those who need the access to health care,” said Rep. Francesca Hong, D-Madison.

By law, the Legislature must meet if the governor calls for a special session, but what they do once they meet is completely up to them. Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu released a statement Wednesday saying he would immediately gavel out the session without debating any bills. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos did not indicate what he would do, but would likely follow his Senate colleague.

“Wisconsin law has not changed and our pro-life position has not changed. Killing innocent babies is not healthcare,” LeMahieu said. “We will gavel out of another blatantly political special session call from this partisan governor.”

RELATED: Republicans say they will immediately gavel out of Evers’ special session on abortion law

But Hong pushed back, saying the governor’s call is “the type of proactive action we need to take to ensure the safety of all pregnant people and make sure that their freedom, and their freedom to access reproductive health care, is available.”

The special session is scheduled for June 22. If it is quickly gaveled out, it would join many of Evers’ other special session calls that have reached a similar fate.

Of the nearly dozen special sessions Evers has called, only one effected a piece of legislation — a February 2021 session related to the state’s unemployment insurance system that faced scrutiny during the pandemic. The only other special session to make progress during Evers’ tenure was in January 2020, focusing on the state’s dairy industry. Bills were introduced, but none were passed.

“Abortions will still remain,” said Hong if the Roe v. Wade precedent is overturned without any action in Wisconsin, “people will have to go across the state to access healthcare.”