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Fetal Tissue Ban Gets Testy Senate Hearing

Medical School Leaders Expressed Concerns Over Research Implications

Shamane Mills/WPR

A bill that would make it a felony to use or sell aborted fetal tissue in Wisconsin had its first state Senate hearing Tuesday, with public comments becoming heated at times.

The bill’s Republican authors, Rep. Andre Jacque and Sen. Duey Stroebel, say medical researchers shouldn’t be able to use fetal tissue obtained from abortions that took place after January of this year. But critics say that won’t prevent abortions, and medical school officials say it could hinder future research, potentially harming Wisconsin’s economy.

During the hearing, Stroebel accused critics of using “rhetoric and hyperbole” in describing the bill’s potential negative effects on medical research .

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“The future is not in fetal body parts,” he said. “The future of our science is moving away from that”

“That’s simply not true,” responded Dr. John Raymond, head of the Medical College of Wisconsin.

“I think it’s fair to say there are many alternate methods that have pros and cons to them, strengths and weaknesses,” Raymond said. “But there are certain experiments for which there really are no alternative models.”

Democratic Sen. Jon Erpenbach questioned the motivation behind the legislation.

“It really seems to me that the issue of abortion and those who just don’t want to see abortions ever are taking it out on researchers who have absolutely nothing to do with abortion,” he said.

Not all researchers oppose the bill. Four researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin who said they oppose abortion testified in favor of the bill Tuesday. Meanwhile, the state’s largest business group, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, opposes it.

The bill is ready for a vote in the Assembly but it’s unclear how much support the proposal has among Senate Republicans.