Planned Parenthood announced on September 14 that it would resume offering abortions in Wisconsin after a judge ruled on an 1849 law, that seemingly banned the procedure but actually did not apply to abortions.
The resumption of abortions on September 18 at clinics in Milwaukee and Madison comes as the lawsuit challenging the state law continues in county court. It is expected to eventually reach the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which flipped to liberal control on August 1.
Abortion clinics across the state stopped offering abortions following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade in June 2022.
Democrats in Wisconsin, including Governor Tony Evers, used abortion access as a central focus of their reelection victories in 2022. State Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz, whose win in April gave liberals the majority for the first time in 15 years, ran as a supporter of abortion rights. Harm Venhuizen Evers hailed the decision.
“This is critically important news for Wisconsin women and patients across our state who, for a year now, have been unable to access the healthcare they need when and where they need it,” he said in a statement.
Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul filed a lawsuit in Dane County days after Roe v. Wade was overturned, seeking to repeal the ban.
Kaul argued that the ban was too old to enforce and that a 1985 law that permits abortions before a fetus can survive outside the womb supersedes the ban. Three doctors later joined the lawsuit as plaintiffs, saying they fear being prosecuted for performing abortions.
Dane County Circuit Judge Diane Schlipper ruled in June that Wisconsin’s 173-year-old abortion ban outlaws killing fetuses but does not apply to consensual medical abortions. Her ruling, a victory for those fighting the ban, said that the legal language in the 1849 law does not use the term “abortion” so it only prohibits attacking a woman in an attempt to kill her unborn child.
“With the recent confirmation from the Court that there is not an enforceable abortion ban in Wisconsin, our staff can now provide the full scope of sexual and reproductive health care to anyone in Wisconsin who needs it, no matter what,” Tanya Atkinson, president of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, said in a statement.
Wisconsin Democratic Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard echoed comments of other Democrats who praised the decision, but said “we have an awful lot of work to do here in Wisconsin to ensure that a woman’s right to choose is protected and codified in perpetuity.”