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WI law would criminalize abortions if SCOTUS overturns Roe v. Wade

People protesting new, strict abortion laws sweeping parts of th
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Wisconsin has a 173-year-old abortion ban that hasn't been enforced in decades. But if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the decision in Roe v. Wade, that law will trigger, criminalizing abortions in the state.

In a leaked draft opinion obtained by Politico, five of the court's conservative justices described Roe's reasoning as "exceptionally weak," and said "the decision has had damaging consequences."

State Sen. Kelda Roys, D-Madison, is the former executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin, a reproductive rights advocacy group. She said folks should plan for the court to follow through with the draft opinion.

"And if you don't need an abortion yet, you should go to aidaccess.org and order an advanced prescription of abortion medication, so that it's in your medicine cabinet even when abortion is illegal, and available for you or someone you love if they need it."

The decision isn't final and the justices could change their positions before a formal ruling is published, so abortion still is legal for the time being. Under Wisconsin's dormant law, doctors who provide abortions could spend up to six years in prison and face a $10,000 fine. It makes a narrow exception in cases where abortions are provided to save the life of the mother.

Roys previously sponsored legislation to secure access to abortion in state law and repeal the pre-Civil War ban. However, the bill was blocked from a public committee hearing, stagnated for more than a year and died in March. Roys said Democrats have tried for years to enact similar bills, which have been blocked in the GOP-controlled Legislature.

"The Republicans have secured their majority through gerrymandering," she said. "They don't have to be accountable to people, they don't have to do what the people want - and so, they've been able to ignore our efforts to try to repeal the criminal abortion ban."

In a January national poll by the Marquette University Law School, nearly three-quarters of respondents indicated they were against overturning Roe v. Wade. While Democrats expressed stronger opposition to striking down the precedent, nearly half of the Republican respondents also opposed overturning Roe.

Born and raised in Indiana, Jonah Chester has been covering issues in Wisconsin for the past several years. He previously worked at WORT 89.9 FM in Madison, where he earned awards for his coverage of everything from law enforcement and policing to the 2020 presidential election.
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