In a historic decision, the United States Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, a nearly 50-year-old case ruling protecting the right to abortion.
With a 6-3 majority vote, conservative justices overturned the precedent set in 1973 that protected a patient’s privacy within the confines of their doctor’s office. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the opinion – the same one leaked last month – that because the Constitution never directly addresses reproductive rights, abortion cannot be protected.
Wisconsin opinions on abortion
What Wisconsinites need to know
Minutes after the Court’s decision was made public, Wisconsin’s access to abortion became restricted. In an email to supporters of Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin, President Tanya Atkinson wrote, “Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin has temporarily suspended abortion services until we receive clarification from a court about whether the law is enforceable.”
Atkinson refers to a 1849 law, which bans abortion in Wisconsin in all cases, including rape and incest. Gov. Tony Evers called into session the Wisconsin legislature on Wednesday hoping to repeal the ban. Republicans gaveled in and out of the session in less than a minute, leaving the ban intact, according to the Wisconsin Examiner.
This means that Wisconsin’s law is among the most restrictive in the country, and it is unlikely to be revised or repealed while Republicans hold the majority in both the state senate and the assembly.
Biden’s inaction despite Dems’ pleas
Over 20 U.S. Senators, including Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, wrote to President Biden on June 8 urging him to protect abortion with an executive order. This came as a response to the leaked opinion draft from May 2, which was locally protested in Kenosha at Bradford High School among other places.
Today, Biden expressed that this is “a sad day for the court and the country,” according to the Associated Press. He continued to use mournful words about the ruling and claimed that he would do everything in his “limited” power to preserve abortion access.
Biden also encouraged Americans to vote for pro-choice Democrats this fall who will protect the right to choose, as the Associated Press article states.
Same-sex marriage and contraception access are next on the judicial chopping block, based on comments from Justice Clarence Thomas, according to another Associated Press article. In the remaining tenure of Biden’s presidency, protection of abortion via executive order is still possible, but with the caveat of an expiration date once a new president is elected. Patients’ privacy and right to choose can only be protected if Congress codifies it.
A history of rights reversal
Despite Sen. Baldwin claiming that overturning Roe is the first time in United States history that the Supreme Court has gone back on its own decisions, the Court has, albeit on rare occasion.
In the 1930s, Lochner v. New York was overturned 20 years after its initial settlement, according to Politifact, regarding the 14th amendment and the “constitutional right for employers and employees to set their own terms of employment.”
Politifact also lists a 1990 decision that overturned Sherbert v. Verner from 1963. These cases dealt with the right to religious exemptions under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause.
Abortion laws in surrounding states
Wisconsin would be an abortion-free island amidst neighboring states with various levels of abortion access. For many residents, obtaining an abortion means access is within a couple hours drive if the patient has transportation available to them.
- ILLINOIS: Fundamental right to an abortion; insurers must cover abortions and other reproductive health services; a licensed physician must perform the procedure; minors require parental consent
- INDIANA: Legal during the first trimester or before fetus is viable; after viability, abortions may only be performed to protect mother’s health; minors require parental consent
- IOWA: Legal within first 20 weeks of pregnancy; minors require a parent or guardian to be notified 48 hours before procedure
- MICHIGAN: Legal prior to fetus viability; must receive counseling and information on the procedure 24 hours beforehand; public funding is available in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment; minors require parental consent
- MINNESOTA: Legal prior to fetus viability; mandatory counseling and 24-hour wait period before procedure; minors must notify parent or guardian before procedure
For the full list of abortion laws by state, click here.
What do our readers think?
Racine County Eye in a poll asked readers if they support the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Here is what some of you had to say:
“It is an archaic ludicrous encroachment on human rights,” Chris Shafer said.
Another pro-choice advocate, Colleen Schwochert, said, “Nobody has any right to dictate over someone else’s body, especially men dictating over woman’s bodies. My body, my choice!”
Two out of 24 survey participants said that they were pro-life, but didn’t provide comment on why they agreed with the court ruling.
Evers, other elected officials weigh in
In a piece by WKOW, elected officials of Wisconsin gave their points of view on the ruling.
This is an absolutely disastrous and unconscionable decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, the consequences of which I hoped to never see again in my lifetime. I know many across our state and nation are scared—worried about their own health and about the health and safety of their family members, friends, and neighbors, who could very soon see the ability to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions stripped from them.
My heart breaks for them, I grieve for them, and I pray for their strength and courage in the days ahead… I will never stop fighting to make sure that every single Wisconsinite has the right to consult their family, their faith, and their doctor to make the reproductive healthcare decision that is right for them.Gov. Tony Evers (D)
Sen. Melissa Agard (D) remarked similarly: “Safe, accessible abortions have been vital health care for so many people across our country and in Wisconsin. This ruling today is an enormous overreach in effort to control and dehumanize reproductive healthcare. Forcing someone to continue a pregnancy against their will is an assault on their fundamental rights and liberty.”
In celebration of the ruling were members such as Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R), who said that he agrees with the Supreme Court’s decision. He also urged those who disagree with the decision to “remain peaceful.”
State Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R) stated, “This is a massive victory for the sanctity of life in our Nation. The Supreme Court’s long-awaited decision restores lawmaking authority to the states and finally gives Wisconsin voters a voice in how they want to protect the most vulnerable.”
On Sunday at noon, a protest will be held on Monument Square. Organized by Kejuan Goldsmith, the event is called March on 4 Roe.