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Planned Parenthood to resume abortions in Wisconsin next week after court ruling

A judge had ruled in July that an 1849 state law, which was interpreted as a ban on abortions in almost all cases, doesn't apply to consensual medical abortions.
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Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin announced Thursday it will resume abortion care services next week after a judge ruled in July that a centuries-old state law that appeared to ban the procedure doesn’t apply to abortions.

“With patients and community as our central priority and driving force, we are eager to resume abortion services and provide this essential care to people in our State,” Tanya Atkinson, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, said in a statement. “With the recent confirmation from the Court that there is not an enforceable abortion ban in Wisconsin, our staff can now provide the full scope of sexual and reproductive health care to anyone in Wisconsin who needs it, no matter what.” 

Last year, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that guaranteed the constitutional right to abortion. The move caused an unpopular Wisconsin law enacted in 1849 that bans abortions in almost all cases to be enforced.

Planned Parenthood is seeking to resume abortion care months after liberals gained control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court for the first time in 15 years following Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz’s victory over conservative Dan Kelly, a former state Supreme Court justice.

Her seat on the state's high court lets the new liberal majority determine key issues in the coming years, such as abortion rights, the state’s gerrymandered legislative maps and election administration, including, possibly, the outcome of the 2024 presidential race in Wisconsin, a swing state.

Protasiewicz had made it clear that her positions on many key issues — especially abortion rights — are in line with those of most in the Democratic Party throughout her campaign (though she repeatedly said her personal values wouldn’t dictate future rulings on the court). She was endorsed by the Democratic abortion-rights group Emily’s List, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Attorney General Eric Holder and several other prominent Democrats.

Abortion rights demonstrators protest outside the Wisconsin state Capitol
Abortion rights demonstrators protest outside the state Capitol in Madison, Wis., on May 3, 2022.Amber Arnold / Wisconsin State Journal via AP file

Tensions on the court erupted into public view when Protasiewicz was sworn in to a 10-year term last month, formally tipping the ideological balance of the court to the left.

Meanwhile, abortion rights have already emerged as a central issue to vulnerable Democrats who are up for re-election next year. In the early race for the White House, the Democratic Party has zeroed in on the key issue, indicating that it hopes to build on momentum from the midterm elections last year — when the issue became a liability for Republican candidates nationwide after the Supreme Court overturned Roe.

Abortion rights were also a key feature in the strategy that helped Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers win re-election last year.

Evers praised Planned Parenthood’s announcement in a statement Thursday.

“I’ve been clear from the beginning that I would fight to restore reproductive freedom in our state with every power and every tool we have, and I’ve spent every day over the last year doing just that,” he said.

“Today’s announcement from Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin as a result of our lawsuit regarding Wisconsin’s criminal abortion ban means Wisconsinites will once again be able to access vital reproductive healthcare and abortion services without exception for the first time since June of last year. This is critically important news for Wisconsin women and patients across our state who, for a year now, have been unable to access the healthcare they need when and where they need it," he added.