Concerned citizens lined the gallery of the State Capitol to watch the debate unfold for the Republicans' ultrasound probe law which will require unnecessary and invasive medical treatments on any women seeking an abortion. The bill had already passed through the State Senate, with the dramatic and demonstrably uncivil silencing of any minority party debate, as chronicled by Giles Goat Boy. The lack of collegiality demonstrated by Senate Majority Leader Mike Ellis is nothing short of breathtaking, even for those of us a bit short of breath from two years of constant struggle against this radical governance franchise that has overtaken the state. Witnesses in the gallery testify that he actually broke his gavel from his aggressive pummeling of procedural protocol. That was on Wednesday.
One day later, yesterday, and only two weeks since the Republicans introduced it, the bill passed the House on a 56 to 39 vote. During what passed for debate, the citizens in the gallery sat silent, some with duct tape over their mouths. The gallery was lined with Capitol Police, whose job it is to oversee the increasingly detailed and labyrinthine sets of rules of conduct and laws restricting assembly that have been put in place during the last two years. It has been clear that signage is no longer allowed in the gallery, nor is photography, nor recording devices of any kinds. I don't know that we were cognizant that silence would not be allowed. That's right: in Wisconsin, our silence has been silenced!
According to the twitter stream of Madison writer and activist Rebecca Kemble's eyewitness account:
Women with tape over their mouths silently protesting #gynogovt in Assembly Gallery told to take it off. Some of them ejected. #WarOnWomen
Rep. Pasch on AB 216: "The author of this bill is seriously out of touch with the reality of women." #gynogovt #WarOnWomen
Applause from the gallery causes Speaker Pro Tem Kramer to have people removed without a warning. #gynogovt #WarOnWomen
Dems protesting Kramer's ejection of the public from the gallery without a warning. #gynogovt #WarOnWomenOne woman was handcuffed and marched out due to her unwillingness to leave the gallery when Rep. Kramer cleared the first two rows due to clapping.
Women in the gallery who removed tape from their mouths on the order of Speaker Pro Tem Kramer now holding hands over mouths. #gynogovt
I'll end with that chilling image. A radical bill of serious consequence was fast-tracked through legislature and now waits to be signed by Governor Walker. He's already said that he has no problem with ultrasounds, and will readily sign. The Senate allowed no debate, insisting on a rapid and violent roll-call vote. The House allowed the performance of debate and voted along party lines. The citizens watching from the galleries above were surrounded by police. There were no outbursts, no incivility, only one instance of clapping. The first two rows were immediately ejected, without warning, by the order of the Republican Speaker.
Women sitting silently with duct tape on their mouths were given the ultimatum: take off your tape, or face arrest. They took off their tape, and sat silently with their hands over their mouths. No talking allowed. No clapping allowed. No noise allowed. No silence allowed.