Glenn Grothman Tried To Remove Woman's Life Exception From Abortion Ban, Make Women Report 'Forcible Rape' Before Obtaining Care

Glenn Grothman, a Republican Wisconsin state senator who is currently running for the US House seat being vacated by Rep. Tom Petri, says he opposes equal pay measures because he thinks “money is more important for men,” believes women’s equality amounts to a “war on men,” and once tried to classify single parenting as child abuse.

It comes as no surprise, then, to learn that Grothman has some Todd-Akin-style anti-choice politics in his past. While serving as a state assemblyman in 1997, Grothman tried – and failed – to remove language from a “partial birth” abortion ban that would have granted an exception for abortions that would save the life of a pregnant woman. That is, Grothman wanted to make it a felony punishable by life in prison for a doctor to save a woman's life by performing a certain kind of abortion.

Grothman sponsored another, successful bill in 1996 that forced women seeking abortions to undergo a 24-hour waiting period, at the time among the longest in the country, and to require doctors to read an anti-choice script to women seeking abortions. When the state senate added a rape and incest exemption to the bill, Grothman arranged to limit the exemption to cases of what he called “forcible rape” and added language that forced the rape survivor to file a police report before being allowed to skip the waiting period.

David Callender of The Capital Times reported on April 25, 1997 that Wisconsin anti-choice groups were split over whether a bill making it a felony to perform a “partial birth” abortion should exempt procedures that would save a woman’s life. One anti-choice group claimed that the exception left “things wide open for the abortionists.” Grothman, then a state assemblyman, stepped in and said he would offer an amendment to remove the life-saving exception:

A bill to ban partial-birth abortions in Wisconsin is causing a major rift among many of the state's most active anti-abortion groups.

The bill would charge doctors with a Class A felony for performing the procedure, which could mean life in prison for offenders.

That's OK with both groups, but they are bitterly divided over an exemption in the bill that would allow doctors to perform the procedure in order to save the mother's life.

Groups such as Wisconsin Right to Life and the Wisconsin Catholic Conference support the exemption. They contend the exception is needed for the bill to pass constitutional muster as well as to insure political support among lawmakers who generally support abortion rights.

On Thursday, the Assembly Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee approved the bill -- with the exemption -- by a 12-2 vote, with the opposition coming from Madison Democratic Reps. Tammy Baldwin and David Travis. The bill will likely come before the Assembly during the May floor period.

But a leading anti-abortion lawmaker, Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, said he will probably introduce an amendment that would delete the mother's life exception.

That deletion is being sought by Pro-Life Wisconsin, the Pro-Life Coalition, Collegians Activated to Liberate Life, and other conservative anti-abortion groups that identify themselves as ``100 percent pro-life.''

Without the change, "this bill leaves things wide open for the abortionists,'' said Dave Ostendorf, a spokesman for the Pro-Life Coalition.

True to his word, Grothman did offer an amendment that would remove the exemption that allowed a doctor to perform a “partial birth” abortion if it would save the life of the pregnant woman. Grothman’s amendment was eventually withdrawn without being put to a vote, but not before the extremism of his anti-choice positions was put on display.

In the other case, Grothman was the primary sponsor of a bill imposing a waiting period for women seeking an abortion and requiring abortion providers to read an anti-choice script to women seeking care, which at the time was one of the toughest in the nation. Grothman justified the bill by saying, “In many cases, women are looking for someone to talk them out of it,” and claiming that many women “have been badgered into [abortions] by their husbands and boyfriends,” according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

“The purpose of this bill is to be sensitive to women,'' he said, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

John Nichols of The Capital Times summarized the bill in July, 1995:

The so-called "Woman's Right to Know'' bill would, if passed, require a physician to meet in person twice with a woman seeking an abortion before performing the procedure. During those meetings, the doctor would be required to offer the woman an ultrasound reading, a fetal heartbeat report and photographs showing the development of a fetus.

The doctor would also be required to describe the abortion procedure in graphic detail and detail possible risks -- even though there is no requirement that the doctor inform the woman of the risks of carrying a pregnancy to term. The doctor would even have to provide information about risks not proven to exist.

The doctor would also have to conclude not only that the woman has been fully informed, but also that her decision to have the abortion is completely voluntary -- even though a physician would have no way of knowing whether this is so. Doctors could be punished legally for failing to do so.

The state assembly passed Grothman’s bill without excemptions for rape and incest survivors. Grothman claimed that in cases of incest, “These women above all, need this extra protection.” He added, “We're victimizing women not to provide them with information at this time," according to the La Crosse Tribune.

After the state senate added a rape and incest exemption to the bill, Grothman introduced an amendment limiting the exemption to cases of what he called “forcible rape” – excluding statutory rape of minors – and allowing rape survivors to skip the 24-hour waiting period only if they could confirm to the doctor that they had first filed a police report. The amendment added the same reporting requirement for pregnancy in the case of incest involving a minor, but added a two-hour waiting period.

The assembly approved the bill with Grothman’s changes and Gov. Tommy Thompson signed it.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted that an earlier Grothman amendment, which was initially passed, but then replaced once legislators realized what it contained, “would have required doctors to wait until a formal criminal complaint was filed before granting an abortion in cases of rape and incest” meaning that survivors would have to “wait weeks, instead of one day, to get an abortion.”