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Gov. Evers calls for special session to change law that makes abortions illegal

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Posted at 9:40 AM, Jun 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-08 18:44:19-04

MILWAUKEE — Governor Tony Evers is ordering lawmakers into a special session to repeal Wisconsin's 173-year-old abortion ban.

"Every single Wisconsinite should have the right to consult their family, faith, and doctor to make a reproductive healthcare decision that is right for them,” said Evers.

Evers announced the special session on Wednesday, saying it will take place at noon on June 22. It comes ahead of an expected ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v. Wade.

"A decision by Supreme Court to overturn Roe and decades of well-established precedent could have disastrous consequences for folks in every corner of our country," Evers said. "Every single Wisconsinite should have the right to consult their family, their faith, their doctor to make a reproductive health decision that is right for them."

If or when Roe v. Wade is overturned at the national level, Wisconsin's abortion ban commonly referred to as "the 1849 law" - because that’s when it was drafted - will take effect. It is prompting another showdown between Republicans and Democrats in our state.

Under the 1849 law, any doctor who provides an abortion - except in cases where it would save the mother's life - would be charged with a felony.

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Evers called on Wisconsinites to contact their legislators and urge them to support repealing the ban.
"We need every person to talk to their friends, family members, coworkers, neighbors. We need to share our stories as to what this decision means," Evers said.

Dr. Allison Linton, an OBGYN at Froedtert Hospital and the Medical College of Wisconsin, was there as Gov. Evers signed an executive order in Milwaukee Wednesday, calling the state legislature into special session.

“This ban was not written by physicians” said Dr. Linton. “It will require me to deny patients an important, safe healthcare procedure that I'm trained to provide. My patients deserve better, and Wisconsin deserves better.”

Evers’ goal in that special session is to repeal the 1849 law, but lawmakers are not obligated to take any action.

"I know this is going to be a tough fight,” said Evers. “I've had a ringside seat on attacks on reproductive healthcare and I have vetoed every one of them.”

State Republicans have ignored other special sessions Evers called on topics like school funding and gun control, gaveling in and out with no discussion.

We have not yet heard back from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, but Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu of Oostburg sent us a statement that reads in part: "Killing innocent babies is not healthcare. We will gavel out of another blatantly political special session."

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, who said he will not enforce the 1849 law, says this is too important an issue to ignore.

“Our legislators owe it to the people of Wisconsin to be clear on where they stand,” said Kaul. “Whether they support this criminal abortion ban or not.”

Abortion rights supporters point to a poll by Marquette Law School last month that found 67 percent of respondents thought abortion should be legal in all or most cases. While 32 percent said abortion should not be legal in all or most cases.

Anti-abortion groups say those numbers do not tell the whole story.

“I think if you delve into those surveys, you will find less support for abortion further on in pregnancy,” said Gracie Scogman, Legislative Director for Wisconsin Right to Life. “There's a wide swath of the population here in Wisconsin that would be in favor of restricting abortion once there is a heartbeat. We are disappointed in the Governor, but happy we have a majority in the legislature who work to uphold abortion restrictions.”

Since Republicans are not expected to take any action, this is more of a symbolic move for Governor Evers, who is in a fight for re-election this year. All the Republican candidates running for governor in the Aug. 9 primary support a state ban on abortion.

"This isn't about politics—it's about empathy, compassion, and doing the right thing. It's about making sure the people we care about get the healthcare they need when they need it. We can't wait for this decision to arrive on our doorstep. We must act now," Evers said on Twitter.

Following Evers announcement, Planned Parenthood issued a statement saying, in part, "I applaud Governor Evers for calling the Legislature into Special Session on June 6 to repeal Wisconsin’s 172-year-old abortion ban. Criminalizing abortion in Wisconsin, threatening women’s lives and doctors with prison time for providing essential abortion care is not the future we want for ourselves, friends, families, or communities."

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