SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Sheboygan County’s district attorney says he will prosecute abortion providers if there’s probable cause an alleged abortion violates state law.
Sheboygan County District Attorney Joel Urmanski says he prosecutes laws based on how they are written and he plans to do the same when it comes to the state’s abortion laws.
"If law enforcement forwards an investigation to us and there's a violation of law, we will prosecute it,” he said. “Our job as prosecutors, in my opinion, is we're upholding the law. We're not legislators, we're not passing laws, we’re not voting on laws, we're enforcing those laws. I'm not going to go out there and say, ‘go ahead and commit this crime, do this, do that’. It's not how I feel about the law. It's not my intentions or thoughts about any particular law. We enforce that law. So if there's a violation here, we'll enforce it."
There are four abortion clinics in Wisconsin. One of them is a Planned Parenthood in Sheboygan. All four clinics halted abortion procedures last Friday after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.
Now, a law established in 1849 is back in effect. It bans abortions unless it’s deemed necessary to save the mother’s life. The law states two other physicians would have to verify that’s the case before legally proceeding.
"Do you think a law that sat dormant for 49 years and was enacted 173 years ago is the will of the people in 2022?” Reporter Ben Jordan asked. “If you look at the law itself, there has been legislative action on that law much more recent than that,” D.A. Urmanski responded. “I think in 1985 there was some action that occurred with that statute and even afterwards. Regardless, take that aside. You're now seeing multiple states across the country that are enforcing or creating new laws dealing with abortion. So to suggest this is an old antiquated law and it's not the way that people see the law or how it should be followed or that it shouldn't be followed, that's just not accurate."
D.A. Urmanski says he’s unaware at this point if local law enforcement agencies in Sheboygan County will investigate alleged criminal violations of state abortion law.
"I don't have that answer, it's new,” he said. “I can tell you that I reached out to law enforcement in this county letting them know the decision that came about, sharing with them the abortion statute that we have on the books so our law enforcement is aware of it."
Sheboygan Co. District Attorney Joel Urmanski says he'll prosecute providers accused of performing abortions in violation of state law. 1 of 4 abortion clinics in Wisconsin is in Sheboygan. Full report airs tonight at 6 on @TMJ4. pic.twitter.com/GGYfctl2fi— Ben Jordan (@BenJordan3) June 28, 2022
“What will you say to your assistant district attorneys who may have a different position on this?” TMJ4's Ben Jordan asked.
"I say that our job is to enforce the law and that's what we do,” D.A. Urmanski responded. “If I have a prosecutor that says morally or otherwise, they do not believe that they can handle a prosecution, then I, myself, or someone else in the office may have to step in and take that particular case."
Meanwhile in Milwaukee County, District Attorney John Chisholm has joined about 80 other prosecutors across the country in saying they will not criminally charge abortion providers who have been investigated and allegedly found in violation of state law. A day after the U.S. Supreme Court’s majority draft opinion was leaked in May, D.A. Chisholm said it wouldn’t be a good use of public safety resources.
"We have unbelievable demands being made on us right now to try to address the surge in violence, overdose deaths, reckless driving,” D.A. Chisholm said. “They have already taxed law enforcement and court and prosecutorial and defense resources to the max. Now you're asking us to, again, insert what? Police officers are going to investigate doctors?"
Back in Sheboygan County, D.A. Urmanski acknowledged each county may function differently in the short term on this law. But he believes his position represents the will of the people in the county he was elected to serve.
"Can I say that we are a busy place and we need more prosecutors and we need more help? Yes, but to go out there and take a stance of, ‘I’m not going to prosecute a certain crime'. That's not a position I'm going to take,” D.A. Urmanski said.
You can read Wisconsin's 1849 law on abortion below or by clicking here.