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Evers calls on Legislature to repeal 1849 state abortion ban, which could go into effect if Roe is overturned

Governor speaking behind a podium.
Emily Files
Gov. Tony Evers, along with Democratic lawmakers and abortion rights supporters, held a press conference in Milwaukee to announce a special legislative session aimed at repealing a state law banning most abortions.

According to a leaked draft opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court is on the brink of overturning federal abortion rights. If that happens, most abortions in Wisconsin could become illegal, due to a state law from 1849 that bans abortions except to save the mother’s life.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers wants Republicans who control the state Legislature to repeal the 1849 law. He announced Wednesday he’s calling lawmakers into a special session June 22.

"We can’t let our kids and grandkids grow up in the world where they have fewer rights than we did," Evers said. "That’s going backwards. That’s not the future we promised them and that’s not the future they deserve."

If Wisconsin reverts back to the 1849 law, doctors who provide abortions are worried about the decisions they’ll have to make. Milwaukee OB-GYN Allie Linton spoke at the governor’s press conference.

"Physicians will have to wait and watch our patients get sicker, deliberating at what point the patient becomes sick enough to meet the ban’s narrow life exemption," Linton said.

But Republican lawmakers don’t seem likely to go along with Evers’ request. Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said in a statement the Legislature would gavel out of the special session, which he called “blatantly political.”

"Wisconsin law has not changed and our pro-life position has not changed. Killing innocent babies is not healthcare,” LeMahieu said.

Gracie Skogman, the legislative director with Wisconsin Right to Life, said her group is in favor of keeping the 1849 abortion ban.

"We believe that [law] is actually representative of Wisconsin’s longstanding commitment to defend pre-born lives and would certainly encourage our elected officials here in Wisconsin to defend it and keep it on the books," Skogman told WUWM.

If the 1849 law does go into effect, litigation over it is likely. Wisconsin patients seeking abortions might have to travel to neighboring states where they're allowed, which abortion rights advocates say will create even more inequities in abortion access.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the abortion rights case this month.

Emily is WUWM's education reporter and a news editor.
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