Gov. Evers calls special session to vote on 'pathway' to repeal state abortion ban

NOW: Gov. Evers calls special session to vote on ’pathway’ to repeal state abortion ban

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Governor Tony Evers is calling for a special session to let voters alter state laws, such as the 1849 criminal abortion ban, by proposing a constitutional amendment to allow statewide referendums.

The proposal would allow voters to decide the fate of abortion laws, a move that Republican Sen. Ron Johnson recently signaled support for. 

Evers' push comes as abortion policy remains a key issue in the battleground state ahead of the November election.

Evers called a special session for Oct. 4 to try and force lawmakers to vote on his constitutional amendment to create a pathway for voters to repeal laws passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature by placing referendums on the ballot.

The earliest voters could weigh in on Evers' plan is 2023 because constitutional amendments must pass two consecutive sessions before appearing on the ballot. 

"The time is now, because we have people who are struggling right now," Evers told reporters during a press event at the state Capitol.  "You're right. It's going to take time," Evers said.

Top Republicans swiftly rejected the proposal, calling it a "political stunt."

“Governor Evers would rather push his agenda to have abortion available until birth than talk about his failure to address rising crime and runaway inflation caused by his liberal DC allies," said Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) & Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) in a joint statement. "Hopefully, voters see through his desperate political stunt.” 

Currently, Wisconsin does not have a process that allows voters to propose new state laws or constitutional amendments by petitioning to hold a referendum vote.

Evers, who's locked in a tough reelection fight against his Republican opponent Tim Michels, is remaining optimist about his proposal. He cited support from Sen. Ron Johnson who recently said he's supportive of having voters decide adding exceptions to the state's 1849 law that bans nearly all abortions unless a mother's life is in danger.

"I heard it directly from Senator Johnson's mouth, that he said 'let's have the people take care of this,'" Evers said. "We agree with him."

Earlier this year, top Republicans rejected Gov. Evers' previous special session to repeal Wisconsin's 1849 abortion law that bans the procedure unless a mother's life is at risk. The law is currently at the center of an ongoing legal fight. 

Published: 9:29 a.m. on Sept. 21, 2022

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Gov. Tony Evers signed an executive order on Wednesday, Sept. 21 that calls for a special session of the Wisconsin State Legislature on Oct. 4 at 10 a.m.

According to Gov. Evers, the goal of Executive Order #175 is to create a pathway for a repeal of Wisconsin's 1849-era abortion ban from state law. Typically, the measure would need to pass two consecutive legislatures before being sent before Wisconsin voters in an amendment referendum.

Gov. Evers' proposal would create a statewide binding referendum process that could potentially impact more than just abortion; it would allow voters to file petitions with the Wisconsin Elections Commission to hold a vote on proposed state laws and amendments or to repeal current state laws. Only a simply majority vote would be required to decide on such referendums.

“On the ceiling of the Governor’s Conference Room in the Capitol is a phrase I’ve often repeated over the last three years: ‘the will of the people is the law of the land.’ Well, right now in Wisconsin, when it comes to reproductive freedom, the will of the people isn’t the law of the land—but it damn well should be,” said Gov. Evers.

He added, “Today, I’m calling the Legislature into special session to create a pathway for Wisconsinites to be able to repeal our 1849-era criminal abortion ban and to ensure women across our state will go back to having the same rights now that they did the day before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade without having to wait for the courts.”

Stay with CBS 58 for continued coverage.

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