Abortion access is in turmoil after the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last Friday, striking down nearly fifty years of federal constitutional protections for the right to choose.
Now, it’s up to the states to decide to protect a person’s right to their own medical decisions. Thirteen states have trigger bans, which have been waiting to take effect if or when Roe was struck down. Eight other states banned the procedure on Friday.
In Wisconsin, the legal status of abortion is uncertain. A 173 year old law criminalizing providing an abortion is still on the books.
An attempt by Democrats to codify abortion protections, just two days before the Supreme Court decision, went nowhere last week.
As the news of the ruling was released, , Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin had to immediately halt all abortions – telling patients in waiting rooms, or over the phone, that they could no longer go through with the procedure in this state. Prior to the ruling, Planned Parenthood had planned to halt abortion care the following day – on Saturday, June 25th.
Tanya Atkinson is the president of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. At a press conference on Friday, she said that the organization will not sit idly by, even if they could not provide abortions themselves.
But the impact of Wisconsin’s abortion ban is in some legal limbo. The 1849 law states that any person apart from the mother could be subject to a Class H or a Class E felony, subjecting providers to anywhere between a ten thousand to fifty thousand dollar fine and six to fifteen years in prison.
There are provisions that make exceptions for pregnancies that would result in the death of the pregnant person, but those are extremely limited.
Attorney General Josh Kaul says that the state Department of Justice will not use any resources to help enforce the ban.
Dane County District Attorney Ishmael Ozanne also says he will not pursue any charges against abortion providers.
Both the Dane County Sheriff’s Office and Madison Police Department also say they will never arrest someone for whatever medical service they are seeking when they visit a clinic.
In a press release, Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barrett stated that they have neither the resources nor the expertise to investigate medical professionals.
But despite its age, and how local officials choose to treat the ban, the ban is still on the books in Wisconsin. Eric Toney, Fond du Lac County District Attorney and Attorney General candidate, promised to enforce the abortion ban, stating that it is his duty to enforce the law. Toney also called the decision a win for life and the rule of law.
Wisconsin lawmakers immediately responded to Friday’s ruling.
Governor Tony Evers called the ruling “disastrous and unconscionable.”
Speaking at a rally at the Democratic State Convention in La Crosse on Saturday, Evers said he would offer clemency to doctors who are prosecuted for performing abortions in Wisconsin.
Republican candidates for Governor also weighed in on the issue. Front-runner Rebecca Kleefisch called the ruling a victory.
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi shared his concern with Friday’s ruling, noting that conservative justice Clarence Thomas wrote, in his concurring opinion, that the court reconsider ruling protecting contraception, same-sex relationships, and same-sex marriage. He called the opinion a politically motivated attack to strip people of their constitutional rights.
Finally, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway voiced her own anger at the ruling. She went one step further than Parisi, calling the move an effort to turn back the clock, disregarding anyone who is harmed in the process.
- The Repro Legal Helpline provides callers with a secure, confidential & free resource about self-managed abortion and the law. Call 844-868-2812 or go to reprolegalhelpline.org.
- The Repro Legal Defense Fund provides financial assistance to people criminalized for self-managed abortion and pregnancy loss and those who help them.
- If you need support to self-manage your miscarriage or abortion, call the Miscarriage + Abortion Hotline at 1-833-246-2632. Their website also offers information on finding and using abortion pills.
- Plan C provides up-to-date information on how people in the U.S. are accessing abortion pills online.
- Pregnancy Options Wisconsin: Education, Resources, & Support (POWERS) offers information and support for all pregnant people. Visit pregnancyoptionswi.org.
- An overview on self-managed abortion, what it is and why people are often criminalized.
Photo courtesy: Helena White / WORT News Team