Most abortions in Wisconsin illegal if court draft holds up

NOW: Most abortions in Wisconsin illegal if court draft holds up

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MADISON, Wis. (AP/CBS 58) — Nearly all abortions could become illegal in Wisconsin if a leaked majority opinion draft by the US Supreme Court holds up.

According to a Politico report, the draft opinion suggests the US Supreme Court could be poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide.

Wisconsin's abortion ban, passed in 1849 and made unenforceable by Roe, makes abortions in Wisconsin a felony punishable by six years in prison and a $10,000 fine. It would not take hold until the majority opinion is published.

Current Wisconsin law allows abortions up to 20 weeks.

"What will happen in states where there are bans in effect is not that abortion will end, what will end is access to safe and legal abortion," Attorney General Josh Kaul said.

Kaul, and other law experts, say overruling the federal law could set a dangerous precedent for reproductive freedom.

It also puts state lawmakers in an unusual space.

"They've not had to debate it," Marquette University Distinguished Professor of Law Janine Geske said. "They've been able to just rely on the courts to resolve the issue and now all of a sudden it's in their laps. In part, it is going to depend on their constituencies and what people want."

Both Kaul and Geske say a repeal could flood the state courts with lawsuits and could be a springboard to discuss other topics.

"The proposed opinion that leaked out said this is only going to apply to abortion, but their cases never just apply, so it could deal with other issues, birth control, gay marriage," Geske said.

If Wisconsin's 1849 abortion law is reinstated enforcement, and where it happens, will be another point of concern.

Kaul has already taken a stance for his office.

"Even if Wisconsin's 170+ year-old abortion ban comes back into effect, the resources of the Wisconsin Department of Justice, while I'm AG, are not going to be used to investigate or to prosecute anybody for alleged violations of that ban," he explained.

The US Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case before its term ends in late June or early July.

The draft opinion was made in a case challenging Mississippi's ban on abortion after 15 weeks, a case known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization.

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