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Evers orders special session over Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban

While the law remains on the books, the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade has rendered it moot.
Published: Jun. 8, 2022 at 9:49 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 8, 2022 at 10:32 PM CDT
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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (WMTV) - Gov. Tony Evers is urging state lawmakers to repeal the pre-Civil War law that outlawed abortion in the state as the future of the Supreme Court precedents that enshrined abortion as a constitutional right appear to be in jeopardy.

On Wednesday, Evers declared he will order the Republican-dominated state legislature back to Madison later this month with a directive to consider repealing the abortion ban. Currently, the law, which was enacted in 1849, makes it a felony to destroy the life of an unborn child from the time of conception until its birth. The law creates an exception for when two doctors agree that the mother’s life is in jeopardy but does not include carveouts for instances of rape or incest.

While the law remains on the books, the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade has rendered it moot. A leaked draft of a looming decision by the current Supreme Court indicated a majority of justices were poised overturn that verdict as well as subsequent cases, such as Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, that had upheld or refined that decision.

“Overturning Roe could have disastrous consequences for so many people we love and care about—our family members, our friends, and our neighbors—who could have their ability to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions taken from them,” Evers wrote in a statement.

When asked if such a decision would mean the state law is immediately enforceable again, a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Dept. of Justice told NBC15 News in late May that the agency is not exactly sure of the consequences would be.

“If Roe is overruled, there will be significant uncertainty about what the state of Wisconsin law is, and we expect that there will be litigation about that issue,” Director of Communications Gillian Drummond said.

Arguing that “we can’t wait for this decision to arrive on our doorstep,” Evers argued state lawmakers should take preemptive action ahead of the decision, which is coming this month and could be released before the June 22 date the governor set for the special session.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) condemned Evers for calling the special session, noting that there has been no decision yet in “Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization”, nor changes to Wiscosnin law.

“Wisconsin law has not changed and our pro-life position has not changed. Killing innocent babies is not healthcare,” said Leader LeMahieu. “We will gavel out of another blatantly political special session call from this partisan governor.”

Evers has ordered multiple special sessions during his term, asking law makers to consider issues such as gun control, what to do with the budget surplus, and education funding. However, the session were greeted dismissively by the legislature which would typically respond by opening the session and soon voting to end it.

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