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Anti-abortion groups call on district attorneys to enforce 1849 law

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Anti-abortion groups call on district attorneys to enforce 1849 law

Sep 27, 2023 | 6:08 am ET
By Baylor Spears
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Anti-abortion groups call on district attorneys to enforce 1849 law
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Wisconsin Right to Life, Wisconsin Family Action and Pro-Life Wisconsin issued the demand at a press conference in the state Capitol on Tuesday. (Baylor Spears | Wisconsin Examiner)

Anti-abortion groups are calling for Milwaukee and Dane County district attorneys to prosecute abortion providers, who started offering services in Wisconsin for the first time in 15 months last week.

Wisconsin Right to Life, Wisconsin Family Action and Pro-Life Wisconsin issued the demand at a press conference in the state Capitol on Tuesday. It comes in reaction to Planned Parenthood restarting abortion services at its clinics in Madison and Milwaukee last week. 

Planned Parenthood made the choice to again provide abortion services based on a July decision by Dane County Judge Diane Schlipper that said the 1849 law, which many have interpreted as applying to abortion, applies only to feticide, not consensual abortion. The organization halted abortion services in June 2022 after the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade due to uncertainty about the 1849 law. 

Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm and Dane County DA Ismael Ozanne, who are Democrats, have previously said they would not enforce the law. 

The anti-abortion groups said on Tuesday afternoon that the 1849 law still applies to abortion and the district attorneys are flouting the law by not enforcing it. 

“Now is not the time to be selected in which laws we enforce and which laws we don’t enforce in Wisconsin. Violence begins in the womb and can end today,” executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life Heather Weininger said. “If District Attorneys Ozanne and Chisholm do their job and ensure prosecution of abortionists in their county is enforced, we will save lives.” 

Pro-Life Wisconsin state director Dan Miller noted that while the law has been challenged by Attorney General Josh Kaul, a final decision has not been issued in the case. Kaul argues in his case that the 1849 law is unenforceable due to statutes that were passed after it; the case is expected to go to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which has a 5-4 liberal majority.

“Abortion is not legal in Wisconsin. Planned Parenthood has decided to break the law, and now they are getting away with it,” Miller said. “Where is the rule of law?”

Miller added that the “law has not been repealed or modified by the state Legislature and therefore the [1849] law remains the law of the land.” 

Matt Sande, Pro-Life Wisconsin legislative director, said the groups would want to see abortion providers and anyone helping them charged with a crime. 

Wisconsin Family Action Julaine Appling said the groups also “find it very interesting that Sheboygan, where there is another Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin abortion facility, was not included in the resumption of these abortions.” 

Sheboygan County DA Joel Urmanski has previously said that he would enforce the 1849 law. However, Planned Parenthood has said that Urmanski is not really a factor in the decision to restart services and they intend to restart abortion services in Sheboygan County in the near future based on staffing.

“It really is truly a staffing and logistic question at this time,” Dr. Allison Linton, a Planned Parenthood provider, said on September 14. “So we know that it’s important to not only have access but also reliable access. So we will be working in the next coming weeks to hopefully restore access in Sheboygan.”