Evers, Kaul file lawsuit to block Wisconsin’s abortion law

Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul are headed to court to challenge Wisconsin’s abortion law.
Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 1:37 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 28, 2022 at 6:51 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul are headed to court to challenge Wisconsin’s abortion law, which went back into effect Friday when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and bans nearly all abortions from conception through birth.

The two leading Democrats announced the lawsuit, which is spearheaded by the Attorney General’s Office, during a news conference on Tuesday. In conjunction with the event, the governor’s office released a series of tweets where they pledged, “we won’t go back, we won’t back down, and we are going to fight like hell.”

Evers went on to blame Republican lawmakers for not passing legislation to change the law. The governor had called a special session following the release of a draft copy of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision ending Roe v. Wade that met two days before the final verdict dropped. That session lasted seconds as legislators gaveled into session as they are required to do, then immediately ended it.

“Now, Wisconsinites face the alarming reality of the consequences of Republican inaction,” Evers continued.

According to Evers’ office, the lawsuit argues that two Wisconsin state statutes have two sets of criminal laws that conflict with one another if they are both applied to abortion. The 1849 abortion ban would prohibit nearly all abortions in Wisconsin, including in cases of rape and incest.

Evers explained that therefore, the state’s 19th century criminal abortion ban is superseded by more modern legislation and cannot be enforced. It also argues that the 1849 law conflicts with several state laws that regulate how a physician can provide an abortion.

“This is not really a legal argument,” Howard Schweber, a political science professor at UW-Madison, said. “It’s a political maneuver, trying to put the Legislature on the spot and forcing them to craft and take responsibility for a new law in this post-Dobbs arena.”

He also noted the lack of “specificity” in the complaint.

“Unsurprisingly, the Attorney General is not able to point to, for example, women facing prosecution Wisconsin right now, or people in prison right now or the kinds of situations that would justify an extraordinary judicial ruling,” Schweber said.

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, said he will continue to defend the current law.

“Abortion isn’t health care and for the governor and attorney general to try and use the courts to enact law is just as wrong as the original Roe v Wade decision over 50 years ago,” Vos said. “I’m confident our courts will see through their tactics and uphold the law.”

Other defendants listed in the lawsuit include Wisconsin State Senate and Co-chair of the Joint Committee on Legislative Organization Chris Kapenga and Majority Leader of the Wisconsin Senate Devin LeMahieu.

Schweber said it was “fair” to bring the Legislature into the complaint.

“It is up to the Legislature, if anyone to clear away unconstitutional and invalid laws. To make this a partisan attack is a little odd. It’s not as though the Republicans in today’s Legislature had had time since the Dobbs ruling to come up with a new law,” Schweber said.

The two leading Democrats announced the lawsuit, which is spearheaded by the Attorney General’s Office, during a news conference on Tuesday.

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