Restoring Abortion Rights in Wisconsin
April 5, 2023
On June 24, 2022, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Dobbs, overturning Roe and, in so doing, eliminating our constitutional right to abortion. After Dobbs, many states reverted back to draconian abortion statutes that were in place prior to the ruling. For Wisconsin, the 2022 decision turned the clock of our rights back nearly 200 years, to a 1849 law that broadly criminalizes abortion.
Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion law only allows abortions in the state prior to “quickening” (the ambiguous time when a fetus can be felt moving). After quickening, a person can only get a legal abortion if the pregnancy threatens their life. There are no exceptions for rape or incest. As Kimberley Reilly writes, turning to the mid-19th century for sound medical guidance is “ludicrous.” But Reilly acknowledges that the 1849 law does protect the right to abortion through the first and second trimester, when quickening is highly unlikely to occur.
Now, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers and other Democratic lawmakers are trying to restore abortion rights to where they stood before Roe was overturned. Chris Walker notes that the bill introduced by Evers and Democrats “would essentially repeal the 1849 statute and return abortion rights precedents to where they were in Wisconsin” up until 2022.
The bill is certainly important and a commendable step toward reproductive justice in Wisconsin. But it’s also highly unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled, anti-abortion legislature, despite the fact that most voters oppose the 1849 law. In response, Republican lawmakers introduced a bill of their own – a hollow attempt to placate those voters. The Republicans’ bill would add exceptions for rape and incest and clarify definitions for when a person’s life is at risk. Apart from these narrow changes, the bill leaves the rest of the 1849 law intact.
We at the Woodhull Freedom Foundation know that the right to an abortion is a fundamental human right. Wisconsin’s 1849 law is unconscionable and cannot stand. We unequivocally support Wisconsin’s pro-choice lawmakers in their attempt to restore our reproductive rights.