The decision about whether and when to become a parent is one of the most important life decisions we make. When people are able to make their own decisions about pregnancy, families thrive, and we build communities where each of us is able to live with dignity and autonomy.
On June 24, 2022, the US Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and no longer affirmed that the US Constitution protected the right to have an abortion. At that moment, it became up to each individual state to determine if abortion is legal. Because of an 1849 criminal abortion ban law, abortion is no longer legal in the state of Wisconsin.
In 1849, Wisconsin made it a felony to have or provide an abortion. While that law became unenforceable after Roe v. Wade, Wisconsin never took its criminal abortion ban off the books. This law is incredibly harsh and does not have exceptions for rape, incest, or the health of the mother. The only way an individual could legally have an abortion under this law would be if they were about to die as a result of their pregnancy.
Right now, a person’s ability to make this decision about their future and access abortion has been removed for Wisconsinites because of this outdated criminal abortion ban from 1849 that has not been in effect because of Roe v. Wade. Now that Roe has been overturned, Wisconsin’s criminal abortion law is enforceable once again, and Wisconsin has return to a time where individuals are simply not allowed to make their own health care decisions.
Trusted Resources to Help People Access Abortion Care and Information
INeedAnA.com: find a clinic - to find vetted, up to date, and personalized info on how to get an abortion; no search or user data saved.
POWERS (Pregnancy Options Wisconsin)Volunteer doctors, midwives, doulas, educators, and activists committed to supporting pregnant people with safe and accurate information and help connect you to regional, state and local resourcesCALL LINE (608) 514-1714 | M-F 9-5pm | urgencies 24/7
Know Your Rights: The newly established website ReproductiveRights.gov provides helpful information about reproductive rights and access.
Having no abortion services in the state would have serious repercussions for Wisconsinites. National research studies, including those conducted with Wisconsin residents, have found profound negative outcomes for people unable to obtain desired abortion care.People who are denied an abortion and go on to give birth are more likely to stay in abusive relationships, less likely to achieve aspirational life goals, less likely to complete postsecondary education, and more likely to experience persistent adverse economic consequences compared to people who receive a desired abortion.Abortion bans would also lead to an increase in pregnancy-related mortality, especially among Black people and other marginalized communities.
Wisconsin borders at least two “haven” states—Illinois and Minnesota—where, due to state law, abortion will continue to be legal even with Roe overturned. A considerable number of Wisconsin residents already travel to Chicago, IL, Minneapolis/Saint Paul, MN, and Duluth, MN for desired abortion care.In fact, almost one in five (18%) Wisconsin residents who obtain abortion care travel out of state for services.For some of these people, out-of-state clinics are simply closer to where they live, particularly because there are so few abortion healthcare facilities in Wisconsin. For others, out-of-state travel is due to the restrictions that already make abortions in Wisconsin difficult to obtain.
However, some people are unable to travel for care due to lack of funds, transportation, and/or childcare.Even within Wisconsin, increases in distance to abortion healthcare facilities due to clinic closures have been associated with more births.
Some Wisconsinites will manage their own abortions at home. Self-managed abortion refers to when a person performs their own abortion outside of the formal healthcare system. People have been managing their own abortions for millennia. While many self-managed abortions before Roe could be unsafe, there are now safe and effective FDA-approved medication abortion methods (using misoprostol and mifepristone).These medications are currently dispensed by licensed abortion healthcare providers nationally, including in Wisconsin.Research suggests that people are also turning to sources outside of the formal healthcare system to obtain these medications.For example, organizations like Aid Accessprovide access to medication abortion by mail. More people will do so if abortion is further restricted or criminalized.
While receiving and using medication abortion by mail can be highly effective, safe,andaffordable,it is not legally sanctioned in Wisconsin. While the 1849 state law does not make a person who self-manages their abortion a criminal, the organization or person providing self- managed abortion products may be at risk for criminal or legal retribution. Moreover, due to lack of knowledge, funds, and other factors, some people will attempt to terminate their pregnancies using methods that are not clinically proven and are potentially harmful, including plants and herbs, toxic substances, intrauterine trauma, or physical trauma.Thus, while safe self-managed techniques are available, both current and pending abortion restrictions in Wisconsin could lead pregnant people to consider use of illegal or potentially dangerous ways to terminate their pregnancies.
Policy Opportunities to Protect Access to Abortion
Our state legislature and Governor have the power to stand between a hostile Supreme Court and the people of Wisconsin. Our lawmakers can protect access to abortion and reproductive healthcare by passing the Abortion Access Preservation Act, introduced authored by Rep. Subeck and Sen. Roys, (Assembly Bill 106/ Senate Bill 75), which would repeal the 1849 ban.
Nationally, Congress can pass the Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA). This important federal legislation would protect the right to access abortion care across the US. WHPA defends every person's right to make decisions about whether and when to become a parent, and safeguards abortion access from medically unnecessary restrictions and bans.
Governor Evers and Attorney General Kaul have officially made a legal challenge to the 1849 criminal abortion ban. The lawsuit argues Wisconsin state statutes contain two sets of criminal laws that directly conflict with each other if both are applied to abortion and therefore Wisconsin’s 19th century criminal abortion ban, Wis. Stat. § 940.04, has been superseded by more contemporaneous legislation and cannot be enforced. Similarly, the lawsuit argues that several state laws regulating how a physician can lawfully provide an abortion conflict with the 19th-century criminal abortion ban. More specifically, provisions, including a waiting period, the use of ultrasound, and how abortion-inducing drugs are administered, among other things, by virtue of providing parameters for when a physician may lawfully perform an abortion, are incompatible with the pre-Roe statute that broadly criminalizes abortion. The lawsuit, filed in Dane County Circuit Court, seeks declaratory judgment and asks the court to clarify that Wis. Stat. § 940.04 was impliedly repealed by subsequently passed abortion-related statutes that conflict with it and is unenforceable.