Planned Parenthood decision to resume abortions could face legal challenge

NOW: Planned Parenthood decision to resume abortions could face legal challenge

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- It's been one week since abortion services resumed at two Planned Parenthood clinics -- a decision pro-life groups want to fight while a legal battle over the state's 1849 criminal abortion ban plays out in court.

On Tuesday, Wisconsin Right to Life, Wisconsin Family Action, and Pro-Life Wisconsin will hold a press conference to call on district attorneys in Dane and Milwaukee County to enforce the state's 174-year-old law outlawing abortions in all cases except to save a mother's life.

The move is unlikely to sway Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, who have both vowed to not criminalize doctors who perform abortions in wake of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

Pro-life advocates argue it's illegal for Planned Parenthood clinics in Madison and Milwaukee to offer the procedure because a judge has yet to make a final decision on whether the state's 1849 abortion ban is enforceable.

Attorney General Josh Kaul filed a lawsuit last year in the days after Roe was overturned, seeking to repeal the ban.

In July, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Diane Schlipper indicated in motion to dismiss Kaul's lawsuit that the 1849 ban doesn't apply to consensual abortions, which prompted Planned Parenthood to resume services.

"We will be calling on the DAs to enforce the law, but also emphasize that Planned Parenthood is illegally performing abortions at this time since we're still waiting on a final determination from the courts," said Gracie Skogman, legislative director for Wisconsin Right to Life.

Skogman said pro-life organizations "are keeping their options open" as to whether they'll file legal action to try and halt abortion services at Planned Parenthood clinics.

Analiese Eicher, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, said they will continue to provide care until they are told otherwise by the courts.

"We are here every day looking to provide care at our health centers and we'll continue to do that unless we are forced to stop," Eicher said.

Planned Parenthood also said they plan to reopen abortion services at the Sheboygan clinic soon. Right now, they haven't yet because of "staffing issues." However, that decision could face backlash from the Sheboygan County District Attorney Joel Urmanski who vowed to prosecute doctors who violate the 1849 ban.

Urmanski was not immediately available for comment. 

The lawsuit seeking to overturn the 1849 law is just the beginning for Planned Parenthood, officials said, in their efforts to protect women's reproductive rights.

Their next goal is to make sure access to the procedure is affirmed in the state constitution. As to whether that's through legislation or the courts, Eicher said, they are "exploring all of their options."

Officials are seeking to set the record straight on abortion access in the state constitution because they say Kaul's challenge will only determine whether the 1849 ban is enforceable.

Before Roe was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, Wisconsin had laws on the books banning abortions after 20 weeks, requiring 24-hour mandatory waiting period prior to an abortion and requiring patients to view an ultrasound.

Those requirements are still in place while Planned Parenthood resumes services. Officials say they'll be working over the next few months to try and "reduce those barriers women face" when seeking an abortion.

Last week, Republicans held a public hearing on a package of abortion-related bills they say will provide more clarity to women and doctors. The bills are unlikely to become law as Gov. Tony Evers has said he'd veto proposals that don't restore pre-Roe abortion.

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