Planned Parenthood will resume abortions in Wisconsin next week after judge rules 1849 state law doesn’t apply

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin says they will resume abortion care services next week after a judge ruled a state law from 1849 did not apply to abortion procedures.

On September 18, Planned Parenthood’s Water Street Health Center in Milwaukee and Madison East Health Center in Madison will again offer abortion care, Tanya Atkinson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, said in a video posted on social media.

“A ruling by the Dane County Circuit Court in July made it clear that the 1849 law is not enforceable for voluntary abortions,” Atkinson said. “In consultation with attorneys, physicians, partners and stakeholders, Planned Parenthood Wisconsin is confident in our decision to resume abortion care in Wisconsin.”

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin suspended abortion care last year after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade due to uncertainty around the enforceability of a 1849 state law that prohibited the procedure. Thirteen other states have banned or severely restricted access to abortion procedures since that 2022 ruling.

Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion law says, “Any person, other than the mother, who intentionally destroys the life of an unborn child is guilty of a Class H felony,” which is punishable by up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine. It also says anyone who causes the death of the mother or “intentionally destroys the life” of an “unborn quick child” would face a Class E felony, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. The law would not apply to the mother and makes exceptions for abortions necessary for the pregnant person’s life.

In June 2022, the state’s Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul brought a lawsuit to the Dane County Circuit Court challenging the 173-year-old ban. Defendants, including Republican Sheboygan County District Attorney Joel Urmanski, sought to dismiss the case.

This July, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Diane Schlipper ruled against the motion to dismiss from defendants.

In her ruling, Schlipper wrote that she found the 1849 law only applies to “feticide,” which was defined as an “act or instance of killing a fetus, usually by assaulting and battering.”

“This pre-Roe statute says nothing about abortion – there is no such thing as an ’1849 Abortion Ban’ in Wisconsin,” Schlipper’s ruling stated.

The lawsuit could still reach Wisconsin’s Supreme Court, which flipped to a Democratic majority after liberal Janet Protasiewicz defeated former conservative justice Daniel Kelly in April.

Wisconsin’s Democratic Gov. Tony Evers praised Planned Parenthood’s decision in a news release Thursday.

“I’ve been clear from the beginning that I would fight to restore reproductive freedom in our state with every power and every tool we have, and I’ve spent every day over the last year doing just that,” Evers said.

“Today’s announcement from Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin as a result of our lawsuit regarding Wisconsin’s criminal abortion ban means Wisconsinites will once again be able to access vital reproductive healthcare and abortion services without exception for the first time since June of last year,” he said.

“This is critically important news for Wisconsin women and patients across our state who, for a year now, have been unable to access the healthcare they need when and where they need it.”

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