Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) quietly signed three controversial bills on the eve of a holiday weekend to significantly limit access to abortion services and sex education. Walker “signed the bills Thursday but didn’t announce the move until midday Friday, when his office released a list of more than 50 bills he signed Thursday and Friday,” the Associated Press reports. The measures include:
- A ban on abortion coverage in policies obtained through a health insurance exchange, set to be created under the federal health care reform law starting in 2014. The only exceptions would be in cases of rape, incest or medical necessity.
- A woman seeking an abortion must undergo an exam and consult with a doctor alone, away from her friends and family. The doctor must determine whether someone is pressuring the woman into the procedure. Doctors who break the law could be charged with a felony.
- Teachers in schools that offer sex education must stress abstinence as the only sure way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Declares that sex education teachers do not have to address contraception. That’s a dramatic shift from current state law, which requires teachers to instruct students on birth control options.
Among the 47 other bills, Walker approved the repeal the state’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act, which had offered individuals legal recourse to fight wage discrimination based on race, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation or other factors. According to the Daily Beast, “in the two years the law was in effect, not a single equal-pay lawsuit was filed,” but employers responded to the law by increasing their workplace diversity. In 2009, Wisconsin ranked 36th for gender-parity. A year later, “it had climbed to 24th,” as the gender pay gap narrowed significantly, the U.S. Department of Labor found.
Walker, who could be recalled from office in the next two months, may also be considering a presidential bid. During a recent interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, he said that “God’s got a plan for us” that may include “bigger things” than his current job. “Who knows where it might be, beyond just serving as Governor of this state,” Walker told David Brody.