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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Republican lawmakers and abortion opponents on Thursday called on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to sign four abortion bills he has promised to veto, holding a rally just a few feet outside of his Capitol office.
Abortion-rights advocates dressed as characters from the dystopian novel and TV series "The Handmaid's Tale" mingled with abortion opponents on a balcony overlooking the rally, with each side holding opposing signs. Republican lawmakers turned the typically private, procedural step of signing the bills that passed the Legislature into a public ceremony to increase attention on the measures.
The signatures of legislative leaders are needed to formally send the bills to the governor, but it's his signature that determines whether the measures become law. Evers, who supports abortion rights, reiterated Thursday that he won't allow the bills to become law.
"As he's said previously, the governor plans to veto these bills," Evers' spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said. Republicans don't have enough votes to override a veto.
That didn't stop Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Majority Leader Jim Steineke, Senate President Roger Roth and other lawmakers at the rally from exhorting Evers to "sign these bills!"
One bill would impose criminal penalties on doctors who fail to give medical care in the extremely rare circumstance where a baby is born alive following an abortion attempt. Organizations representing obstetricians and gynecologists, along with Democratic opponents, say existing laws already provide protections to every healthy newborn.
The other bills Evers plans to veto would cut off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood; prohibit abortions based on the fetus' race, sex or defects; and require providers to tell women seeking abortions using the drug mifepristone that the process may be reversed after the first dose.
They come as anti-abortion politicians and activists feel emboldened in Wisconsin and across the country by the addition of conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. They hope federal courts will uphold laws that prohibit abortions before a fetus is viable outside the womb, the dividing line the high court set in the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
Louisiana , Georgia , Kentucky , Mississippi and Ohio enacted bills barring abortion once there's a detectable fetal heartbeat, as early as the sixth week of pregnancy. Missouri's governor signed a bill approving an eight-week ban on abortion, with exceptions only for medical emergencies. Alabama outlawed virtually all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest. None of the bans has taken effect, and all are expected to face legal challenges.
The bills passed in Wisconsin don't go that far or attempt to further restrict the state's ban on abortions after 20 weeks after fertilization.
Evers' election in November put an end to eight years of Republicans having control of both the governor's office and Legislature. During that time, they passed numerous anti-abortion measures, including a 20-week ban. Had Scott Walker won a third term, the bills Evers plans to veto likely would have been signed into law.
Democrats accused Republicans of grandstanding with their protest.
Assembly Democratic Minority Leader Gordon Hintz called it a "circus" and a "fake pep rally."
"This is the kind of stunt you see when you haven't adjusted to the reality there's a Democratic governor," he said.
Associated Press writer Todd Richmond contributed to this report.
Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP