WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court issued a shameful ruling today overturning Roe v. Wade — the landmark decision recognizing the constitutional right to abortion nearly 50 years ago – and effectively banning abortion in Wisconsin and other states across the country.
In addition, the ruling, in this case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, will set off a chain reaction with states banning abortion and criminalizing essential care throughout entire regions of the country.
Wisconsin had a law on the books banning abortion that was passed prior to Roe v. Wade. The previous law, which was passed in 1849, was unenforceable for nearly a half a century; however, today’s decision will likely allow that law to go back into effect. The practical effect is that abortion care will not be available in Wisconsin starting today.
Although current Wisconsin Attorney General Joshua Kaul said he would not prosecute abortions in the State of Wisconsin, local prosecutors would have discretion on whether or not they initiate criminal proceedings against physicians who perform abortions. The risk of prosecution, now or in the future, means that physicians will not provide this care.
This decision is an unprecedented attack on women’s rights and reproductive freedom. Half the states in the country are expected to ban abortion, denying 36 million women and other people who can become pregnant the fundamental right to decide for themselves whether and when to become a parent.
That includes more than 1 million women — and other people who can become pregnant — in Wisconsin.
As some Wisconsin residents have already experienced severe obstacles to abortion care, banning abortion leaves many with no other option than to carry a pregnancy to term and give birth. Forcing someone to carry a pregnancy against their will has life-altering consequences, including enduring serious health risks from continued pregnancy and childbirth, making it harder to escape poverty, derailing their education and career plans, and making it more difficult to leave an abusive partner.
Today’s ruling will also have deadly consequences, with the harm falling hardest on Black people and other people of color who already face a severe maternal mortality crisis that is the worst in the same states that are determined to ban abortion. In fact, Black Wisconsinites who give birth are five times more likely than white people to die during or within the first year of pregnancy.
If abortion is banned nationwide, pregnancy-related deaths are estimated to increase by 21 percent nationwide and 33 percent among Black women.
"While today is an undeniably bleak day in our country’s history, we can not allow ourselves to give up the fight. Feelings of hopelessness and despair are understandable given the magnitude of the crisis we now find ourselves in. But even in moments like this one – where we may feel completely powerless in the face of grave injustice — we must remind ourselves that we still do have power. Everyone’s rights are on the line now, so it’s important for all of us to make our voices heard, and to get involved,” said Larry Dupuis, legal director at the ACLU of Wisconsin.“We need the officials who represent us in local, state, and federal government – as well those we elect to the judiciary – to be firmly committed to defending bodily autonomy, reproductive freedom, and the other civil liberties we hold dear.”
“We encourage everyone to channel the righteous anger you may be feeling right now into action. There are elections set for this August and November, as well as a crucial state supreme court race next April,” said Melinda Brennan, the executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “You can also talk with your neighbors, contact your legislators, get engaged and organize within your community.”
The ACLU of Wisconsin is carefully considering its options and working with partners and providers to respond to this ruling.