abortion rights marchers in Madison

Abortion rights supporters march as part of a "Bigger Than Roe" national mobilization in Madison, Wisconsin on January 22, 2022.

(Photo: Sara Stathas for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Planned Parenthood Asks Wisconsin Supreme Court to Affirm Abortion Rights

"Wisconsinites deserve the ability to make decisions that shape their future—to make decisions about if or when they become a parent. And they deserve to know this right is protected by our state constitution."

Continuing a legal battle that began with the nationwide reversal of Roe v. Wade in June 2022, Planned Parenthood on Thursday filed a petition urging the liberal-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court to swiftly protect the right to abortion.

"We're asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to answer this question: Does the Wisconsin Constitution protect the right to access abortion care and a provider's right to provide abortion care?" Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin (PPWI) president and CEO Tanya Atkinson explained in a video shared on social media.

"Wisconsinites deserve the ability to make decisions that shape their future—to make decisions about if or when they become a parent," she stressed. "And they deserve to know this right is protected by our state constitution."

According to the Wisconsin State Journal:

The lawsuit asks the high court to declare that abortion rights are protected in the constitutional provision stating, "All people are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights; among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

"At the sacred core of the inherent right to life and liberty lies the right to determine what one does with one's own body, including whether and when to have a child," the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit doesn't seek to define when exactly abortion rights are guaranteed.

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin has clinics that offer abortion care in Dane, Milwaukee, and Sheboygan counties. However, after the U.S. Supreme Court's right-wing majority overturned Roe in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, PPWI stopped providing abortions due to uncertainty over an 1849 state law.

PPWI decided to resume abortion care last September, in response to Dane County Judge Diane Schlipper's July ruling that the law only applies to feticide, or the act of killing a fetus, and not consensual pre-viability abortion. Joel Urmanski, Sheboygan County's Republican district attorney, asked Schlipper to reconsider her decision, but she reaffirmed it in December.

Urmanski on Tuesday asked the state's top court to bypass the appellate level and weigh in. In response, PPWI chief strategy officer Michelle Velasquez said in a statement that the group "vehemently opposes" his view that the 175-year-old law took effect upon Roe's reversal but "we do agree with DA Urmanski that bypass to the Wisconsin Supreme Court is appropriate, as this issue is of statewide importance and that requiring this case to be first decided by the Court of Appeals will only result in needless delay."

"Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin will continue to provide abortion care services at our Water Street Health Center in Milwaukee, Madison East Health Center, and Sheboygan Health Center," Velasquez added. "We will continue essential work to help protect and expand reproductive freedom in Wisconsin so that everyone who needs comprehensive reproductive healthcare in our state can get the nonjudgmental and compassionate care they deserve."

If the Wisconsin Supreme Court takes up the issue, its four liberal members are expected to affirm abortion rights, a key topic that led voters to end right-wing control of the court last April by electing Justice Janet Protasiewicz. However, even if the justices rule as anticipated, GOP state lawmakers across the country have ramped up efforts to restrict reproductive freedom since Dobbs.

Republicans in the Wisconsin State Assembly last month approved a bill that—if also passed by the Senate—could lead to a statewide referendum in the April election asking voters whether to ban abortion after 14 weeks of pregnancy. However, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has vowed to veto the measure, which would block it from the ballot.

After the January vote, Jon McCray Jones, a policy analyst at the ACLU of Wisconsin, toldtheGrio that already, "1 in 5 patients are now traveling out of state for abortion care," and a new ban would exacerbate challenges faced by marginalized communities.

Residents now deal with "healthcare deserts," because "many young people who are graduating from residency are opting to go into states that have linear abortion laws," Jones said, arguing that "politicians need to stay out of the uteruses of Wisconsinites."

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