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Wis. Democrats, Gov. Tony Evers call for end of 1849 abortion ban with new legislation

By: Ethan Duran//March 21, 2023//

Wis. Democrats, Gov. Tony Evers call for end of 1849 abortion ban with new legislation

By: Ethan Duran//March 21, 2023//

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Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, Lt. Gov. Sara Rodriguez, State Sen. Kelda Roys and State Rep. Lisa Subeck announced reintroduction of legislation to repeal the state’s 1849 criminal abortion ban in the current legislative session. Abortion access in the state was left uncertain when the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022.

The bill would “cleanly repeal” the  Civil War-era abortion prohibitions, the governor’s office said. The state’s 1849 abortion law makes it a felony for a provider to perform an abortion at any stage of felony without exception of rape or incest. The only exception to the law is to save the pregnant person’s life.

Evers said in a statement he wouldn’t sign a bill leaving Wisconsin women with fewer rights and freedoms than they had before Roe.

“This bill will simply restore access to safe, legal abortion in Wisconsin to what it was on June 23, 2022—nothing more, and nothing less. We must restore Roe, and I’m proud to join Legislative Democrats in continuing our fight to restore access to reproductive freedom in Wisconsin with a clean repeal our state’s 1849-era criminal abortion ban,” Gov. Evers said.

Wisconsin’s law, which was enacted before the Civil War and well before women gained the right to vote, would bar patients from access to abortion care they need, Rep. Subeck (D-Madison) said in a statement.

“Abortion is health care. As long as doctors face the threat of prosecution for providing basic reproductive health care, and as long as extremist Republicans continue putting politics ahead of our rights, patients will not have access to the abortion care they need in our state. The bill we introduced today would Restore Roe in Wisconsin by returning the state of abortion access to exactly what it was before Roe v. Wade was overturned, restoring our freedom to make our own reproductive health care decisions without interference from politicians,” Rep. Subeck said.

A Marquette University Law School Poll showed nearly 60% of Wisconsinites supported access to safe and legal abortions, the governor’s office said. Republicans in the Legislature introduced a separate bill to make exceptions to rape and incest to the 1849 law, but Gov. Evers promised to veto the proposal.

“Wisconsinites have made their views clear, and the people of our state support repealing our archaic 1849-era ban on abortion. Today, we introduce the Restore Roe Act so that the will of the people to restore our reproductive freedom may once again be the law of the land,” Rep. Subeck said.

Sen. Roys (D-Madison) said in a statement women and not politicians should be in charge of decisions about their lives, bodies and health.

“Women – not politicians – are the only ones who should make decisions about their bodies, lives, and health. Abortion is common, safe, and not controversial – Wisconsinites overwhelmingly want to see their rights restored to what they were under Roe v. Wade. We cannot afford to make Wisconsin even more hostile to health care providers and pregnant people if we want our state to thrive,” Sen. Roys said.

“Everyone loves someone who will need an abortion, and no one should be treated like a criminal when they do,” Sen. Roys added.

Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard (D-Madison,) Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer (D-Racine) and Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul joined the governor in support of his announcement.


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