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Thursday, June 30, 2022
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U.S. Court sides with Attorney General Josh Kaul after GOP Legislators try to block his defense of the state in a lawsuit against Planned Parenthood, parallel to a floor session in which the State Assembly voiced efforts to strengthen access to contraceptives. 

Wisconsin bill, lawsuit attempt to increase women’s reproductive services

Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals three-judge panel found Attorney General Josh Kaul suitable to litigate in a lawsuit against Planned Parenthood the same day the State Assembly passed a bill to increase birth control access.

The GOP tried to limit Kaul’s role in the legal action brought forth by Planned Parenthood that constitutionally challenges Wisconsin laws that only allow doctors to perform abortions and those that require people seeking an abortion to see the same doctor on two separate occasions — at least 24 hours apart. 

Using laws created during the late special sessions of former Gov. Scott Walker’s administration, the GOP-controlled legislature tried to remove Kaul from the lawsuit, believing he is ill-fit to defend the state against abortion expansions in March. 

The Seventh Circuit judges acknowledged Kaul’s capability based on the nature of his role to appropriately respond to lawsuits and fulfill duties to the state thereafter despite political or personal interests. 

“The Attorney General, acting as counsel for all defendants, answered the complaint instead of moving to dismiss for failure to state a claim,” Circuit Judge Amy St. Eve wrote. “His answer denied that the regulations violated the Constitution.”

Despite his endorsements by pro-choice organizations, the judges claimed the legislature’s petition did not identify a “significant, concrete conflict or divergence” in Kaul’s interests or adequacy to defend state law. 

“We have worked hard to pass legislation that protects the right to life. This lawsuit puts those laws — and the lives of the unborn in our state — at great risk,” wrote Kristen Nupson, legislative director of Wisconsin Right to Life. “The Legislature was proactive in seeking outside intervention in this case and we are disappointed the court will not allow them to do so.”

However, some Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly are using a more preventative approach to protect the right to life by increasing access to contraception. 

During a floor session last week, the Assembly debated and passed AB 304, which allows pharmacists to prescribe birth control pills and patches to those over the age of 18. 

"If we are pro-life and anti-abortion, and I am, give women the tools to not having to put themselves in a place where they're in fear, crisis, not mentally ready for it, not feeling like they can handle this,” co-author of the bill Rep. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, said. “This is about life, not abortion." 

Author Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, sees an additional fiscal advantage to the bill. 

“According to the latest available statistics, nearly half of all pregnancies in Wisconsin and the nation are unplanned, with state and federal taxpayers spending $21 billion annually on related medical care,” Kitchens cited. “Close to 45 percent of unplanned pregnancies are aborted and almost 65 percent of unintended births in Wisconsin are publicly-funded, costing state taxpayers about $314 million annually.”

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The legislation will need to pass the Senate and then await Gov. Tony Evers signature to become law. 

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