By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Democrats running for office in Wisconsin urged Congress on Tuesday to act quickly to protect abortion rights in the wake of news that the U.S. Supreme Court could be poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, a move that would make nearly all abortions illegal in Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, Republicans and abortion opponents were joyful at the possibility that the nearly 50-year-old ruling could be overturned, while also expressing caution that the news came from a leaked draft opinion obtained by Politico.
“It’s about time!” Republican gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch tweeted on Monday.
Abortion rights were already expected to be a major dividing line issue in races for governor and U.S. Senate in Wisconsin. But if Roe is overturned, it could serve to energize Democrats hoping to defeat Republican Sen. Ron Johnson and reelect Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.
“Democrats need to act today,” Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, a Senate candidate, tweeted Tuesday. Barnes renewed his call on the Senate to abolish the filibuster to make it possible to pass laws protecting abortion rights, as did Outagamie County
Executive Tom Nelson. Another Democrat, Sarah Godlewski, also called for congressional action.
Wisconsin’s law banning abortions passed in 1849. It was made unenforceable by Roe, but if that ruling is overturned the state law would be back in effect. That would make performing abortions in Wisconsin a crime punishable by up to six years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. There is an exception for when a mother’s life is in danger, but not for rape or incest.
Democratic state Sen. Brad Pfaff, who is running for Congress in western Wisconsin, urged Evers to call a special session of the Legislature “and fight like hell to protect a woman’s right to choose.” But Republicans control the Legislature and would almost certainly ignore such a move.
Evers’ Republican challengers have called for Roe to be overturned and they do not support making exceptions in state law. Kleefisch, construction business co-owner Tim Michels and businessman Kevin Nicholson all said Monday they welcome Roe being overturned. State Rep. Timothy Ramthun has described himself as “100% pro-life without exceptions.”
Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, who is also up for reelection, said in December that if Roe was overturned, he would not investigate alleged violations of the state ban or prosecute anyone. But such prosecutions would most likely be brought by county district attorneys.
Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action, has worked for years to ban abortions. She urged caution about celebrating too early.
“We want to see the actual opinion released by the Court before we rejoice,” she said in a statement.