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Wisconsin GOP renews anti-abortion push

The decades-old fight over abortion rights in Wisconsin is heating up again as Republican legislators push a quartet of bills designed to curtail the practice despite Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ opposition.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling legalizes abortions performed before a fetus has a reasonable chance of surviving outside the womb. The ruling doesn’t define that point, saying it could range between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy.

Former Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill in 2015 that prohibits abortions in Wisconsin after 20 weeks gestation except in cases where the mother’s life is in danger. A state law passed in 1849 bans abortions without exceptions but Roe vs. Wade invalidated it.

The statutes remain on the books, however. Abortion rights advocates want to erase the language in case Roe vs. Wade is overturned.

Republicans have proposed four bills on abortion since mid-April.

One would prohibit the state from certifying under Medicaid private health care providers that perform abortions. That would cut off Medicaid funds for Planned Parenthood.

Another would prohibit abortions based on the fetus’ race, sex or defects.

Yet another would require providers to tell women seeking drug-induced abortions that they can still save the fetus after ingesting the first dose. That bill would also require providers to report to the state the number of abortions a woman has had, how she’s paying for the latest one and the reason for it.

The highest-profile proposal is a bill that would require health care providers to care for babies born alive as a result of an attempted abortion. Providers who fail to do so would face up to six years in prison. Providers who kill a baby born alive following an abortion attempt would face life in prison.

Assembly and Senate Republicans have scheduled hearings Tuesday on the bills, suggesting they’re on a fast-track toward floor votes.

The measures have divided anti-abortion advocates, however; they say the bills aren’t tough enough.

Sara Finger, executive director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, called the bills “politically motivated” attempts to draw attention away from proposals in Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ state budget expanding Medicaid coverage.

Evers has already promised to veto the born-alive bill, saying current criminal penalties would apply to providers who won’t care for or kill abortion survivors.

Asked about where he stands on the other bills following a news conference last week, Evers said he didn’t know what they did and refused to allow a reporter to tell him about the measures, saying he wanted to see the bills himself.

Evers has said in the past he supports a woman’s right to choose. Signing any anti-abortion measure into law would spark serious questions about his loyalty to the Democratic Party.

Eye on next year

For Republicans, it’s all about energizing the conservative base in the lead-up to the 2020 elections. Most Republican legislators face little threat from Democratic challengers since the GOP redrew district lines in 2011. But they don’t want to face primary opponents. Proposing the anti-abortion bills is a way to reassure their base that they’re true conservatives.

Wisconsin Republicans aren’t the only ones advancing anti-abortion legislation. Republicans are sending born-alive bills to liberal-leaning governors in other states, too.

President Donald Trump is using the concept as a rallying cry. During an April 27 speech in Green Bay the president said he can’t believe Evers would veto legislation protecting babies. He also said Wisconsin doctors and mothers can currently decide whether to “execute” abortion survivors.

Evers says doctors aren’t killing babies after failed abortions and called Trump’s remarks “blasphemy” and “horrific.”

Rare occurrence

It isn’t often that babies are born alive as a result of abortion. National statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 143 instances in which live births resulted from abortion attempts between 2003 and 2014.

It’s unclear how many happen in Wisconsin, if they happen at all. State officials don’t track such occurrences. They say the state bans non-emergency abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy and a baby born then would be too young to survive anyway.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, one of the born-alive bill’s chief sponsors, says the lack of statistics doesn’t mean no children survive abortions in Wisconsin.

Dr. Doug Laube, a Madison abortion provider and former president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, says live births resulting from abortions simply don’t happen in Wisconsin.


ASSOCIATED PRESS 

Two wild elephants, part of a herd that arrived in 2017, engage in a tussle on the outskirts of Gauhati, Assam, India. Development that has led to loss of habitat, climate change, overfishing, pollution and invasive species is causing a biodiversity crisis, scientists say in a new United Nations science report released Monday.


National
AP
UN: Nature in worst shape in human history

People are putting nature in more trouble now than at any other time in human history, with extinction looming over 1 million species of plants and animals, scientists said Monday.

But it’s not too late to fix the problem, according to the United Nations’ first comprehensive report on biodiversity.

“We have reconfigured dramatically life on the planet,” report co-chairman Eduardo Brondizio of Indiana University said at a press conference.

Species loss is accelerating to a rate tens or hundreds of times faster than in the past, the report said. More than half a million species on land “have insufficient habitat for long-term survival” and are likely to go extinct, many within decades, unless their habitats are restored. The oceans are not any better off.

“Humanity unwittingly is attempting to throttle the living planet and humanity’s own future,” said George Mason University biologist Thomas Lovejoy, who has been called the godfather of biodiversity for his research. He was not part of the report.

“The biological diversity of this planet has been really hammered, and this is really our last chance to address all of that,” Lovejoy said.

Conservation scientists convened in Paris to issue the report, which exceeded 1,000 pages. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services included more than 450 researchers who used 15,000 scientific and government reports. The report’s summary had to be approved by representatives of all 109 nations.

Some nations hit harder by the losses, like small island countries, wanted more in the report. Others, such as the United States, were cautious in the language they sought, but they agreed “we’re in trouble,” said Rebecca Shaw, chief scientist for the World Wildlife Fund, who observed the final negotiations.

“This is the strongest call we’ve seen for reversing the trends on the loss of nature,” Shaw said.

The findings are not just about saving plants and animals, but about preserving a world that’s becoming harder for humans to live in, said Robert Watson, a former top NASA and British scientist who headed the report.

“We are indeed threatening the potential food security, water security, human health and social fabric” of humanity, Watson told The Associated Press.

It’s also an economic and security issue as countries fight over scarcer resources. Watson said the poor in less developed countries bear the greatest burden.

The report’s 39-page summary highlighted five ways people are reducing biodiversity:

  • Turning forests, grasslands and other areas into farms, cities and other developments. The habitat loss leaves plants and animals homeless. About three-quarters of Earth’s land, two-thirds of its oceans and 85% of crucial wetlands have been severely altered or lost, making it harder for species to survive, the report said.
  • Overfishing the world’s oceans. A third of the world’s fish stocks are overfished.
  • Permitting climate change from the burning of fossil fuels to make it too hot, wet or dry for some species to survive. Almost half of the world’s land mammals — not including bats — and nearly a quarter of the birds have already had their habitats hit hard by global warming.
  • Polluting land and water. Every year, 300 to 400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents and toxic sludge are dumped into the world’s waters.
  • Allowing invasive species to crowd out native plants and animals. The number of invasive alien species per country has risen 70% since 1970, with one species of bacteria threatening nearly 400 amphibian species.

“The key to remember is, it’s not a terminal diagnosis,” said report co-author Andrew Purvis of the Natural History Museum in London.

Fighting climate change and saving species are equally important, the report said, and working on both environmental problems should go hand in hand. Both problems exacerbate each other because a warmer world means fewer species, and a less biodiverse world means fewer trees and plants to remove heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the air, Lovejoy said.

The world’s coral reefs are a perfect example of where climate change and species loss intersect. If the world warms another 0.9 degrees, which other reports say is likely, coral reefs will probably dwindle by 70% to 90%, the report said. At 1.8 degrees, the report said, 99% of the world’s coral will be in trouble.

At least 680 species with backbones have already gone extinct since 1600. The report said 559 domesticated breeds of mammals used for food have disappeared. More than 40% of the world’s amphibian species, more than one-third of the marine mammals and nearly one-third of sharks and fish are threatened with extinction.

The report relies heavily on research by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, which is composed of biologists who maintain a list of threatened species.

The IUCN calculated in March that 27,159 species are threatened, endangered or extinct in the wild out of nearly 100,000 species biologists examined in depth. That includes 1,223 mammal species, 1,492 bird species and 2,341 fish species. Nearly half the threatened species are plants.

Scientists have only examined a small fraction of the estimated 8 million species on Earth.

The report gives only a generic “within decades” time frame for species loss because it is dependent on many variables, including taking the problem seriously, which can reduce the severity of the projections, Watson said.


ASSOCIATED PRESS 

Giraffes and zebras congregate under the shade of a tree last year in Mikumi National Park, Tanzania. The United Nations issued on Monday its first comprehensive global scientific report on biodiversity.


Crime-and-courts
Cadott woman charged for supplying drugs in overdose death

A Cadott woman has been charged with supplying drugs to a Holcombe woman who later died of an overdose.

Heuer

Breana J. Heuer, 22, was charged in Chippewa County Court with first-degree reckless homicide/delivering of drugs-party to a crime and manufacturing and delivering amphetamines.

Heuer appeared in court Wednesday for a bond hearing. Judge Steve Cray ordered Heuer be held on a $5,000 cash bond, and not to have any contact with the deceased woman’s family or the woman’s boyfriend. She will return to court June 19.

According to the criminal complaint, Carissa R. Kasmeirski and her boyfriend were smoking meth at a home at 25251 27th Ave. in the town of Birch Creek on March 23 when Kasmeirski stopped breathing. A coroner arrived and pronounced Kasmeirski deceased at the scene.

An autopsy was performed in Minnesota two days later which confirmed she died from using meth.

The boyfriend, who has not been charged at this time, told law enforcement he purchased the drugs from a woman at a business in Chippewa Falls. The investigator was able to obtain video surveillance from that business and observed the drug sale occur.

Heuer was previously charged in 2018 with possessing meth, drug paraphernalia and bail jumping. She also was charged in Clark County in April with possessing meth, controlled substances and illegally-obtained prescriptions, plus resisting an officer. She returns to Clark County Court on May 13.

Chippewa County Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk noted this is the third overdose death in the past three years in the county where the person who supplied the drugs has been charged with homicide.

“Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more of these overdoses,” Kowalczyk said. “I have to give credit to the investigators and the (district attorney) for these charges. Someone supplies an illicit drug, they should face the consequences. We have to do something to deter the sale and distribution of these drugs.”

The other drug-related homicide cases include Shane P. Johnson, 41, who was arrested Nov. 24, 2017, two days after 40-year-old Nicholas J. Buck was found deceased at his Chippewa Falls’ home of a suspected drug overdose. Johnson, who is already serving a 20-year federal prison sentence on drug convictions, returns to Chippewa County Court on May 31 on the homicide charge.

In another overdose death case, Dustin Leshock, 29, Eau Claire, was convicted of supplying drugs to 18-year-old Isaac C. Repetto in November 2016, causing Repetto’s death. Leshock was sentenced in August 2017 to four years in prison and four years of extended supervision.

“Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more of these overdoses.” Jim Kowalczyk, Chippewa County sheriff