U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin joined state Democratic leaders at a roundtable event Sunday evening to discuss abortion rights and reproductive health care ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
Baldwin’s appearance came a day before she spoke at Vice President Kamala Harris’ kick-off for her “Fight for Reproductive Freedoms” tour outside Milwaukee.
“I've been heartened by seeing how many people are getting involved around this issue and other freedoms and rights that have been taken away,” Baldwin told The Daily Cardinal.
The U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade set a 49-year precedent guaranteeing abortion access as a right protected under the U.S. Constitution. Roe was overturned in 2022 after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson revoked federal protections for abortion access.
After the Dobbs ruling, an 1849 state law restricting abortion access went back into effect in Wisconsin. But after a lower court ruled the law does not apply to consensual abortion care, Wisconsin Planned Parenthood (WIPP) resumed abortion services in Madison, Milwaukee and Sheboygan.
Wisconsin voters showed dissatisfaction with the loss of abortion rights in April 2023 when they elected liberal Justice Janet Protasiewicz to the state Supreme Court.
Sen. Kelda Roys, D-Madison, said the abortion ban was “incredibly brutal.”.
“We have seen things that many women, who have been fighting for this for decades, never thought they would see again,” Roys said at Sunday’s roundtable.
Laura Wiederhoeft, a nurse at Madison’s Planned Parenthood Clinic, shared at the roundtable that many pregnancy counseling visits turned into “case management visits” to assist patients in finding out-of-state abortion services.
“My experience of that time was twofold because of course I was concerned about our patients [but] as an abortion care nurse I was [also] concerned about my own livelihood and the livelihood of a lot of colleagues,” Widerhoeft said.
The influx of out-of-state patients in the year of the Dobbs decision resulted in more than 56,000 abortion procedures in the state of Illinois, the largest amount the state has seen in 25 years, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
University of Wisconsin-Madison medical student Samantha Crowley shared her frustrations with obtaining abortion training after the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe, Crowley said medical students in Wisconsin had to pay additional tuition and travel to a state with legal abortion access if they wished to pursue training in abortion care.
She feared the new lack of abortion accessibility in over a dozen states would result in future generations of medical providers being unable to perform abortion procedures.
Last year, the Women’s Health Protection Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate. Baldwin became a lead author on the proposal, aiming to prevent states from restricting abortion procedures and guaranteeing late-term abortion services if necessary.
Baldwin told the Cardinal she is confident the bill will pass the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate but said Speaker Mike Johnson’s unfavorable views toward abortion access would prevent a companion bill in the House of Representatives at this time.
She said flipping the U.S. House to a Democratic majority is key to passing the bill into law.
“You can’t accomplish what we’re talking about [without] the right people who care in office,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin is up for re-election in 2024. The senator currently faces no high-profile challenger, but it is still possible for a Republican candidate to emerge in an attempt to take the state’s only Democratic seat.