by Benjamin Yount
Wisconsin’s governor says recent updates to the state’s 1849 law banning abortions means it cannot be enforced.
Gov. Tony Evers and Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul on Tuesday filed a lawsuit to stop the state’s near total ban on abortions from taking effect.
“Time is of the essence,” the governor said at a news conference. “Every day that we delay, waiting for a different Supreme Court or waiting for something else, that’s a day that women in Wisconsin do not have access to reproductive health.”
Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion law prohibits abortions for any reason other than to save the mother’s life.
Lawmakers updated the law in 1985, then again in 2015 under former Gov. Scott Walker.
Attorney General Josh Kaul on Tuesday said those changes essentially invalidate the 1849 law.
“We have unclear laws. Because they’ve been unconstitutional for 50 years, they’ve never been applied in a modern context,” Kaul explained. “Wisconsinites need clarity in how these rules apply.”
Kaul said he expects the courts to quickly hear and decide the case. He’s hopeful that Wisconsin’s Supreme Court, with a 4-3 conservative majority, will agree with his argument.
Rick Esenberg with the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty said Evers’ and Kaul’s lawsuit should be immediately dismissed.
“It’s a matter of legislative intent,” Esenberg explained. “It’s quite clear what happened here during the time Roe was decided that the legislature passed a series of laws that allowed it to place whatever restriction on abortion it could under Roe. But it very intentionally decided not to repeal the older law that could not be enforced because of Roe.”
Esenberg said the lawsuit is a political stunt aimed at ginning-up support for the November election, or next spring’s Supreme Court election.
Wisconsin’s Republican Assembly Speaker, Robin Vos, also called the governor’s lawsuit a political ploy.
“Abortion isn’t health care and for the governor and attorney general to try and use the courts to enact law is just wrong as the original Roe v Wade decision over 50 years ago. I’m confident our courts will see through their tactics and uphold the law,” Vos said Tuesday.
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