Planned Parenthood decision highlights uncertainty surrounding abortion ban
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Wisconsin lawmakers were split Thursday on whether they believe Planned Parenthood will be breaking the law when it resumes abortion services Monday.
The women's healthcare organization's Wisconsin chapter announced Thursday it will once again perform abortions at locations in Milwaukee and Madison.
Tanya Atkinson, president of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, announced in a video posted to social media the organization believed a Dane County judge's July ruling cleared the way for Planned Parenthood to legally provide abortion services.
In that decision, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Diane Schlipper ruled that because the state's 1849 abortion ban doesn't use the actual word, "abortion," the law only addressed the act of attacking a pregnant woman in an attempt to kill her unborn child.
Republicans maintain the 1849 law, which states the only exceptions are for cases where a mother's life is at risk, applies to medical abortions, too.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said he saw Planned Parenthood's decision as a sign pro-choice advocates were banking on eventually getting the law struck down by a state Supreme Court that flipped to having a liberal majority.
"If Planned Parenthood is so convinced they're going to win in the state Supreme Court, that they are willing to break the law, which the law on the books is still the 1849 statute, it's just another reminder that some people flout the law, whether or not it's on the books," Vos said.
Vos said he did not expect the legislature to take any legal action seeking to halt Planned Parenthood from performing abortions, but added other conservative organizations mighr seek an injunction that would prohibit abortions while the case plays out.
"I'm sure there will be potential groups outside that do that," Vos said. "The Legislature doesn't have to put itself into every single legal argument. There are private interests that will do that."
Democrats welcomed Planned Parenthood's announcement. Gov. Tony Evers said in a statement work still remained to ensure there'd be no long-term question about abortion rights in the state.
"Our fight to restore the same reproductive rights and freedoms Wisconsinites had up until the day the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe must continue," Evers said.
State Rep. Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) said she believed the Dane County ruling cleared a legal for Planned Parenthood to resume abortion services while the lawsuit, brought by Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, worked its way through the courts.
"I certainly have heard what the judge had to say," she said. "And again, I would just reiterate that this is a big moment because individuals in Wisconsin will have the freedom to make their reproductive healthcare decisions."
As for the future of abortion regulation in Wisconsin, Vos said he was still pushing for members of his caucus to back a bill that would update the 1849 ban to include exceptions for rape and incest.
Subeck said she didn't support any kind of legislative action that restricted abortion access, even when asked if that meant pro-life voters would interpret her stance as supporting the right to abortion up until birth.
"I certainly don't think politicians should be making our reproductive healthcare decisions,” she said. “I think those are decisions that should be left up to individuals in consultation with their physicians, their family and their faith.”