- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 22, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin Republicans moved forward with a bill that would outlaw research on tissue from aborted fetuses, holding another public hearing on the measure Tuesday even though lawmakers have yet to announce a compromise that would win the votes to get the proposal through both the state Assembly and Senate. Here are things to know about the measure:



The measure would make performing research on tissues, organs and cells obtained from fetuses that die through induced abortions after Jan. 1, 2015, a felony punishable by up to six years in prison and $50,000 in fines. The proposal also would impose the same penalty on anyone who acquires, provides, receives or uses a fetal body part for profit.



Sen. Duey Stroebel and Rep. Andre Jacque introduced the bill after undercover videos surfaced showing a medical director at a Planned Parenthood clinic in California meeting with people posing as potential buyers of intact fetuses. The videos raised questions about whether Planned Parenthood was profiting from the sale of fetal tissue. Federal law bars the commercial sale of fetal tissue but allows nonprofit tissue donations with the consent of the woman who had the abortion. Planned Parenthood has denied making any profit, saying its fees for providing fetal tissue only cover the costs. The organization’s Wisconsin chapter doesn’t offer any tissue donation services.



Stroebel and Jacque, both Republicans, say the measure would ensure no for-profit fetal tissue sales take place in Wisconsin and preserve fetuses’ dignity. Stroebel told the Senate health committee during Tuesday’s hearing that it’s time to draw “a line in the sand” and prohibit “grotesque harvesting of fetal body parts.”



Dr. Robert Golden, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s vice chancellor of medical affairs, told the health committee that fetal cells have played a role in developing the polio vaccine and drug safety tests. Fetal cell lines are currently part of university researchers’ work toward an Ebola vaccine as well, he said. The bill would allow researchers to continue using cell lines developed before Jan. 1, 2015, but Golden said researchers need new cell lines and predicted that if the bill passes his top scientists will take their projects - and their grant funding - to other states. Meanwhile, the health committee’s attorney said Tuesday that a judge could interpret the bill as prohibiting any treatments that were developed using fetal tissue. The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation’s board on Tuesday announced unanimous opposition to the bill. The foundation funds UW-Madison research and obtains patents and licenses for discoveries and inventions.



The bill’s fate is unclear. The measure stands ready for a vote in the Assembly after that chamber’s criminal justice committee signed off on it earlier this month. Republicans control the Assembly 63-36, but Speaker Robin Vos said Tuesday he doesn’t have the votes to pass it. He said his caucus doesn’t want to fund “really grotesque” procedures but doesn’t want to hurt research efforts. A number of Senate Republicans have expressed concern about the impact on research as well. Legislators are trying to hash out a compromise but have yet to announce anything.

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