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Wisconsin governor announces challenge to state’s law banning abortion in wake of Roe ruling

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Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and State Attorney General Josh Kaul on Tuesday filed a challenge to a 19th century state law banning nearly all abortions. 

Evers and Kaul announced the lawsuit at an early afternoon press conference, just days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that the constitution protects a woman’s right to have an abortion. 

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers waits to speak on the third day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin August 19, 2020. 
(Melina Mara/Pool via REUTERS)

“I will never stop fighting to ensure every Wisconsinite has the right to consult their family, their faith, and their doctor and make the reproductive healthcare decision that is right for them – a decision that should be made without interference from politicians or members of the Supreme Court who don’t know anything about their life circumstances, values, or responsibilities,” Evers said in a statement. 

In his lawsuit, Kaul argued that statutes passed in the 1980s supersede Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban – and it’s so old that modern generations never consented to it.

TENNESSEE  6-WEEK ABORTION BAN ALLOWED BY FEDERAL APPEALS COURT

Wisconsin passed the law the year after the territory became a state, banning abortions in every instance except to save the mother’s life. Roe vs. Wade effectively nullified the ban. 

The court’s Friday decision has created questions about whether the ban is back in effect. Anti-abortion advocates insist it is. Abortion providers in the state stopped offering procedures on Friday out of fear of prosecution.

Attorney General Kaul had hinted before the Supreme Court’s decision that he would challenge the ban’s validity. He followed through on Tuesday, filing an action in Dane County Circuit Court. He blasted the ban during Tuesday’s press conference, likening it to Wisconsin returning to the 19th century. 

FILE: Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul speaks during a news conference following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, U.S. August 26, 2020.
(REUTERS/Stephen Maturen TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY/File Photo)

Evers said Democrats are taking “very, very, very important steps to return rights to the women of Wisconsin.”

Wisconsin adopted a post-Roe vs. Wade law in 1985 that prohibits abortions after a fetus has grown enough that it could survive outside the womb. Kaul argues that the 1985 law superseded the ban and therefore abortions before the point of viability remain legal in Wisconsin.

“Wisconsin abortion providers cannot be held to two sets of diametrically opposed laws, and the Wisconsin people deserve clarity,” the lawsuit said.

Republican lawmakers have said they may update the ban when they return to Madison for the next two-year legislative session in January. Evers would veto any of their attempts if he wins reelection in November, however.

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The lawsuit names Senate President Chris Kapenga, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos as defendants. Vos said in a statement that Evers and Kaul’s decision to sue is just as misguided as the original Roe vs. Wade ruling.

“Once again we will do Attorney General Kaul’s job and vigorously defend the law,” Vos said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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