Planned Parenthood is resuming services at two clinics after a judge interpreted an 1849 law as not being an abortion ban.
Doctors at two Planned Parenthood clinics in Madison and Milwaukee will once again begin providing abortion care on Monday, according to an announcement made Thursday morning by the organization. The announcement came after a Wisconsin judge declared that the arcane language in an 1849 state law does not apply to abortion care.
Planned Parenthood ended all of its abortion services in Wisconsin in the wake of the June 2022 Dobbs decision by the US Supreme Court that repealed Roe v. Wade and the reproductive rights it had guaranteed for 49 years. The organization and other clinics feared that providing abortion care would run afoul of Wisconsin’s 1849 law, which Republicans claim bans abortion in virtually all cases.
But following Dane County Circuit Judge Diane Schlipper’s motions ruling in July, healthcare rights advocates are optimistic that the lawsuit will eventually end with affirmation of Schlipper’s interpretation—that the arcane language in the law applies to the killing of fetuses by assaulting or battering the mother, but not to abortion.
If that is the case, a 1985 state law will take precedence. The “Abortion Prevention and Family Responsibility Act” allows pre-viability abortions as well as post-viability abortions “if the abortion is necessary to preserve the life or health of the woman, as determined by reasonable medical judgment of the woman’s attending physician.”
Viability refers to the point at which a fetus can survive outside the womb; it is generally considered to be around 23 or 24 weeks.
Dr. Kristin Lyerly, an obstetrician-gynecologist and one of the intervenor plaintiffs in the legal challenge, said Friday on UpNorthNews Radio that while the resumption of abortion care is a positive development, there’s more to be done to fully restore women’s healthcare rights post-Dobbs.
“Nobody wants a politician making their personal health care decisions for them, whether we’re talking about when you get your preventive care screening or whether you get cancer treatment,” Lyerly said.
Lyerly noted women in Wisconsin’s rural areas still live in healthcare deserts that force them to travel hours for some vital reproductive health services. The solution, Lyerly said, is to continue the fight to get politicians out of intimate, sometimes heartbreaking healthcare decisions.
“Politicians have no right to be in the exam room with you,” Lyerly said. “So let’s continue to help them move out so that we as individuals, as Wisconsinites, can make our own personal health care decisions with the counsel of our medical professionals, our family, our faith leaders, the people who we really trust and rely on.”
Whenever Schlipper issues a final judgment on the interpretation of the 1849 law, an appeals process will almost certainly take the case to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which had been controlled by conservative justices for more than 15 years until last month’s swearing-in of Justice Janet Protasiewicz, giving liberals a 4-3 majority.
Protasiewicz repeatedly stated during her campaign this spring that she personally believed abortion should be legal, though she stopped short of saying how she would rule on the specifics of any given case that came before the court.
Gov. Tony Evers praised the Planned Parenthood decision to resume abortion care services in Wisconsin and, like Lyerly, also cautioned there is more to be done to restore women’s healthcare rights.
“I will keep fighting like hell every day until Wisconsinites have the right to make their own healthcare decisions without interference from politicians who don’t know anything about their lives,” Evers said.
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