Breaking News
More () »

In Wisconsin, Supreme Court ruling appears to revert state to 1849 abortion ban

Legal battles are sure to follow in Wisconsin, where the Democratic Governor and Republican-led state legislature are frequently at odds.

RIVER FALLS, Wis. — After a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Friday overturned Roe v. Wade, a pre-Civil War abortion ban in Wisconsin is believed to have taken effect, setting up fierce legal battles in the weeks ahead.

The 1849 law, which went into place a year after Wisconsin became a state, outlaws abortion except to save the life of the mother. 

Although the state's Democratic Attorney Genera Josh Kaul has suggested he may not enforce the 1849 ban, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin President Tanya Atkinson said her organization has nonetheless halted abortion services temporarily. 

"Today, our daughters have less rights than their mothers, less rights than their grandmothers," Atkinson said in a message posted to social media. "This is absolutely unconscionable."

Closer to the Twin Cities, in Western Wisconsin communities like River Falls, longtime abortion-rights activists Barbara Peterson and Cheryl Maplethorpe denounced the Supreme Court's decision. 

"I just think this is a devastating ruling, those of us who live in Wisconsin particularly," Peterson said. "Now, in order for women to exercise their right to have control of their body, they're going to need to travel. And thank goodness Minnesota is there."

Both women helped organize local rallies in May, following the draft leak of the decision.

"I knew it was coming," Maplethorpe said. "I'm still angry that women have lost a right going back 50 years." 

Earlier this week, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers called a special session to repeal the state's 1849 abortion ban in anticipation of Roe being overturned, but the Republican-led legislature did not entertain the idea. Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has not ruled out making exceptions for rape and incest, but he called Friday's Supreme Court ruling a "great victory for life." 

RELATED: Minnesota policymakers react to Roe v. Wade decision

"We are incredibly joyful and hopeful," said Gracie Skogman, the legislative director with Wisconsin Right to Life. "This has been a decision the pro-life movement has advocated for decades, for generations. So, it's very special to be here finally in this moment."

However, Skogman said she expects legal challenges to the state's 1849 law. 

"We are preparing a wide variety of legislative options," Skogman said, "whether that be a heartbeat bill here in Wisconsin, or simply a constitutional measure of our state constitution, stating there is indeed no right to an abortion in our state constitution."

The issue of abortion will now play a pivotal role in the November elections, when Gov. Evers is up for re-election, along with the entire Assembly and part of the State Senate.

"We hope that the pro-life issue is a driving force behind getting Wisconsinites to vote," Skogman said.

Meanwhile, abortion rights activists like Barbara Peterson and Cheryl Maplethorpe said they're going to fight on the other side of the aisle. 

"What I will be saying to women is, it's too easy to just give up and think this is the end," Peterson said. "We will continue to be heard."

RELATED: SCOTUS overturns Roe v. Wade; Minnesota expects to become safe haven for abortion seekers

Watch more local news:

Watch the latest local news from the Twin Cities in our YouTube playlist:

Before You Leave, Check This Out