Wisconsin’s Pro-Life Movement Regroups After Tuesday’s Devastating Supreme Court Loss

Julaine Appling rejoiced in June when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a decision she had been praying for a long time. The victory for the unborn in Wisconsin, though, looks to be short-lived.

Appling, president of pro-life Wisconsin Family Action, said the shifting of power from right to left on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court will put life — and liberty — in peril in the Badger State.

“They’re going to come after school choice, religious freedom, Act 10,” Appling said. “We’re going to have to learn how to live in the midst of a Wisconsin we don’t recognize.”

Liberal Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz defeated conservative former Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly in Tuesday’s pivotal spring election. Protasiewicz’s victory will give liberal jurists control of Wisconsin’s high court for the first time in 15 years. She will replace outgoing conservative Justice Pat Roggensack, whose second 10-year term on the bench ends in August.

Most pressing for the pro-life movement is Protasiewicz as deciding vote in what will surely be the case against Wisconsin’s abortion ban. The prohibition, dormant for nearly 50 years, came back into force last year following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling that returned to the state’s authority over abortion law.

Protasiewicz campaigned on “pro-choice” position, with her campaign and her liberal allies pushing the candidate as the protector of women’s reproductive rights at every turn in the bruising campaign. And far left, abortion-supporting Dane and Milwaukee counties delivered. More than 240,000 Dane County voters turned out — all but 18 percent of them for Protasiewicz, according to the New York Times. And 233,000-plus Milwaukee County voters cast ballots in the spring election, nearly three-quarters of them for Protasiewicz. She captured more than 1 million votes (55%) in the record-shattering spring election.

A Different Kind of ‘Liberty’

Appling said Wisconsin’s pro-life movement saw this coming. Abortion supporters had 50 years, lots of money, and a pliant media to drive the language that turned the killing of babies into “reproductive health care,” “reproductive rights,” and “freedom.”

A Marquette University Law School poll released just days before the election found 67 percent of respondents opposed to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. Opposition numbers have remained consistent in the poll.

Abortion activists promised they would pound the issue in the Supreme Court election, as they did in the “red wave” stanching midterm elections. They were true to their word.

They billed their Supreme Court victory as a win for liberty. On this Holy Week, Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Ben Wikler audaciously billed the court’s tilt to the left as the “resurrection” of democracy and freedom.

Protasiewicz read from the same talking points.

“Our state is taking a step forward to a better and brighter future where our rights and freedoms will be protected,” she told her celebratory supporters at her victory party in Milwaukee.

Rights and freedom are indeed on the line — beyond the left’s “right” to terminate the life of the unborn. Protasiewicz may very well rule on the right of public employees not to be in a union. That’s what Wisconsin’s Act 10, in place for more than a dozen years, has done for worker freedom. Former Republican Governor Scott Walker’s signature law also freed state taxpayers from billions of dollars in ever-rising government wages and benefits thanks to labor unions’ outsized power in collective bargaining.

Protasiewicz, who has called the law unconstitutional, who protested against it and sought to recall Walker over it, isn’t sure whether she’ll recuse herself from a case revisiting Act 10 that’s sure to move to the Supreme Court.

Religious freedoms, the right of parents to take their kids out of failing public schools and into private schools without breaking the bank, and basic liberties most Wisconsinites took for granted until the pandemic are all on the line with the liberal-led court. It was Kelly, as a member of the court in 2020, who was the deciding vote on Governor Tony Evers’ illegal and constitutionally suspect lockdown orders. It was a conservative court that finally ended Evers’ useless mask mandates, and stopped his administration from issuing endless “health emergency” declarations.

The three liberals on the court voted lockstep in defense of Evers’ liberty-restricting policies, and there is every indication that their pal Protasiewicz will vote with them.

And then there’s the freedom of the unborn to simply be born, to live.

Appling worries, too, that so-called pro-life Republicans will backslide even more to find compromises to fit the polling and their political prospects. A few weeks before the election, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and other Republican lawmakers introduced an abortion ban exception bill, allowing for abortions in cases of rape and incest for up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy.

Evers, whose campaign has been generously funded by Planned Parenthood and other abortion advocates, vowed to veto the bill. Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) said it would go nowhere in the Senate.

“We’re always concerned leadership is paying too close attention to the polls that they’ll cave,” Appling said. “One thing I don’t think people understand about groups like ours is that the polls don’t dictate our positions. We take a position because it’s right.”

She said pro-life organizations need to do a better job of educating the public that the lives claimed by abortion are not just a “mass of tissues” or cells. It’s a battle for hearts and minds, as it always has been.

Appling, a veteran of the pro-life fight for more than 25 years, said Wisconsin Family Action and their allies won’t be discouraged because of the outcome of one election.

“We’re going to do what we’ve always done, we’re going to keep working every single day with everything we have to advance a culture of life and a culture that’s positive for families in this state,” she said.

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M.D. Kittle is the National Political Editor for The Star News Network.
Photo ” Julaine Appling” by Wisconsin Family Action. 





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