Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Sara Rodriguez joined Democratic lawmakers Tuesday to reintroduce legislation repealing Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban.
Reinstated after the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade this summer, the ban prohibits nearly all abortions with no exception for rape or incest. Democrats’ “Restore Roe Act” would repeal the ban and revert Wisconsin abortion rights to the way they were before Roe’s overturn, when the state allowed an abortion for any reason up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Evers, who told Wisconsin Public Radio last November he “[did] not see a way” to compromise on Wisconsin’s abortion ban legislatively, touted the Restore Roe Act at the press conference Tuesday.
“I’ve been clear from the beginning that I won't sign a bill that leaves Wisconsin women with fewer rights and freedoms than they had before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe,” Evers said. “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.”
Bill co-authors Rep. Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) and Sen. Kelda Roys (D-Madison) reiterated Evers’ message in statements Tuesday.
“Everyone loves someone who will need an abortion, and no one should be treated like a criminal when they do,” Roys said at the press conference.
Nearly 60% of Wisconsin voters support safe, legal access to abortion, according to a Marquette Law School poll from November. The same poll found that more than 60% of Wisconsin voters opposed the decision to overturn Roe.
“Every single Wisconsinite should have the right to consult their family, their faith and their healthcare provider to make the reproductive healthcare decision that is right for them without interference from politicians who don’t know anything about their life circumstances, their medical history, their values or their responsibilities,” Rodriguez said.
Democrats’ proposal comes after Assembly Republicans introduced their own abortion bill last week, according to the Associated Press. The GOP plan would maintain most of Wisconsin’s abortion ban but make new exceptions for abortions in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy if the patient is a victim of rape or incest.
Evers and Democrats called on their Republican colleagues to “have a debate” about the two conflicting proposals, wanting both parties to find a way to work together on the issue of abortion rights within the state.
In response, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) released a statement calling Democrats’ proposal “quite the spectacle, with [Evers’] hypocrisy on full display.”
“Last week, Legislative Republicans introduced a bill that’s a reasonable middle ground to the divisive and opposing viewpoints on abortion,” Vos said. “We’re willing to discuss and find consensus. Instead, [Evers] issues an ultimatum of no negotiating.”
Vos’ proposal met bipartisan resistance from Senate Republicans, Democratic lawmakers and Evers, who promised to veto the bill, according to statements made last week. Evers has promised for months to reject bills that maintain any portion of the 1849 abortion ban.
“It falls short of what the people of the state want and the freedoms they deserve,” Evers said Tuesday.
An abortion rights lawsuit filed by Attorney General Josh Kaul is currently pending in the Dane County Circuit Court. The outcome of the case could depend on the results of the fast-approaching Wisconsin Supreme Court race, as the winner of the April 4 election will determine the court’s ideological balance.
Despite the lawsuit, Democrats within the state are pushing forward with their bill in hopes of protecting abortion rights through legislation.
“Abortion is healthcare,” Subeck said at Tuesday’s press conference. “As long as doctors face the threat of prosecution for providing basic reproductive healthcare 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.”
Anna Kleiber is a state news reporter for The Daily Cardinal.