Birth control bill progresses

A bill Gov. Jim Doyle plans to veto if it reaches his desk still has many on UW campuses concerned.

The bill, authored by Rep. Daniel LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, would prohibit advertising, prescribing or dispensing emergency contraception on UW campuses. The state Assembly passed it 49-41 on June 16, and it will now move to the Senate Committee on Health, Children, Families, Aging and Long-Term Care.

If passed by the committee, it would move to the Senate Organizations Committee, a bipartisan group that gives final referral to the Senate.

Laura Chellman, director of the Eau Claire Student Health Services, strongly opposes the bill and is pleased with Doyle’s intentions to veto it.

“There’s certainly some comfort in that,” she said. “It is troubling that there were a number of lawmakers that voted for this bill.”

Chellman named numerous problems with the bill, mainly the wording, which she said could be interpreted as a ban on all types of birth control.

The bill also made Wisconsin the first state in the nation to pass a measure in the state Legislature banning the “morning-after pill” on state college campuses.

Katharine Lapp, women’s issues director for United Council, testified at an Assembly committee hearing.

She said she discussed the ramifications of passing the emergency contraceptive ban with legislators, pointing out various issues like unwanted pregnancy.

“Students deserve access to comprehensive and quality health care,” Lapp said. “Whether they choose to take (the contraceptives) or not, they should at least have that option.”

Lapp said she was unsure which way the Senate, which like the Assemby is Republican-controlled, would vote on the bill.

LeMahieu drafted the bill after University Health Services at UW-Madison took out ads in campus newspapers urging students to get advance prescriptions before leaving for spring break, according to an Associated Press article.

Chellman said emergency contraception at UW-Eau Claire gets no special mention or advertising other than when it is listed among the other health services provided by the university.

Junior Erin Hartman said she feels generally neutral about the bill.

“I think there should be special cases made if there is rape,” she said. “(Emergency contraception) may be unfit for some, but I suppose abortion rates might go up too.”

Student Senate passed a resolution May 2 opposing the Assembly bill, saying “it is imperative that all options are readily available to every UW System student.”

But senior Bob Hartman disagreed, saying he supports a ban on emergency contraception.

“I think that once the sperm and egg form a zygote, it’s a human being,” he said. “So to dispense of a human being, I guess I’m not down with that.”

The state Senate reconvenes next week. Sen. Carol Roessler, R-Oshkosh, chair of the health committee, could not be reached for comment.

For more information on contraception provided by Student Health Services at UW-Eau Claire, visit its Web site