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WI Attorney General files lawsuit to block 1849 abortion law, GOP Gubernatorial candidates vow to enforce it


Governor Tony Evers’ Administration filed a lawsuit against the 1849 abortion law.

The law makes abortion illegal except in instances where a mother’s life is danger and only after having three doctors confirmed it.

For perspective, the law was put in place a year after Wisconsin became a state and 70 years before women got the right to vote.

District Attorney Josh Kaul says they’re seeking to make the law unenforceable.

He says there’s been a series of laws passed since Roe v. Wade that put regulations on lawful abortions. They contradict the 1800s law.

Kaul will also argue that the law has fallen into disuse and can no longer be enforced under Wisconsin law.

“People knew then what we continue to know that making abortion illegal doesn’t stop abortion. It stops safe and legal abortion. In fact, when those bans were in place were commonplace, but the laws were very rarely enforced and they were disparately enforced,” said Kaul. “We have contended that those because of the history of limited enforcement and the fact that they haven’t been enforced for more than 50 years no longer can be in effect in Wisconsin.”

While the lawsuit is going through the court system, Kaul says his office will not prosecute cases under the 1849 law.

Governor Evers has vowed to grant clemency to any doctors who are convicted under the law and says he won’t appoint any prosecutors that will enforce it.

Green Bay-area obstetrician Kristin Lyerly spoke in favor of the lawsuit at the press conference held announcing it.

“I’m also an abortion care provider. At least I was until last week when the supreme court repeal Roe and in an instant took away our fundamental rights to our own bodies. Decisions that impact every aspect of our lives for the rest of our lives. I’m here today as a woman and a mom and most urgently a physician to elevate the voices of the people I serve,” said Lyerly.

Kaul filed the lawsuit in Dane County court Tuesday.

GOP Gubernatorial Candidates React to Abortion Law

The night before the filing, three of the lead Republican candidates for Governor said they’d fire any prosecutors who refuse to enforce the 173-year-old ban on abortions.

This was during at GOP debate held Monday in Green Bay.

GOP Candidate Timothy Ramthun said he was glad that the 1849 law is in place in Wisconsin.

“I’m elated beyond measure that the Supreme Court of the United States followed the constitution and gave the rights back to the states,” he said.

Candidate Rebecca Kleefisch said she was overjoyed Roe v. Wade was overturned.

“It is a time for us in the pro-life movement to rejoice and celebrate the fact that we are the party who can be pro-life, which means being pro-women and pro-baby. I will lead with empathy and compassion and keep the 1849 law on the books to protect the unborn in Wisconsin,” she said.

Candidate Kevin Nicholson said he was “elated that the court did the right thing.”

He says the next step is to support pro-life pregnancy resource centers around Wisconsin.

“As your Governor, I want to make sure every last cent that finds its way from the state of Wisconsin to Planned Parenthood is shifted over to those pregnancy resource centers to protect innocent life,” said Nicholson.

All three said during a debate Monday that they would fire district attorneys who refuse to enforce the ban.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said Friday he wouldn't enforce the ban and Milwaukee County John Chisholm has hinted he won't enforce it either.

Candidate Tim Michels did not join the debate.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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