The Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Assembly passed a bill on Jan. 25 that would put a 14-week abortion ban on the April 2 primary ballot, giving voters the chance to curtail abortion rights in the Badger State.
The bill passed by a vote of 53-46 after a debate in which a number of GOP lawmakers spoke out against abortion rights and in favor of the legislation.
“I believe in personal responsibility. Except for the tragic circumstances for which exceptions have been made in this bill, most women are not forced to get pregnant. … At the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, unless you have been in a tragic situation outside of your control, if a woman doesn’t want to become pregnant, there are choices involved in that,” Republican Rep. Amanda Nedweski, one of 36 original sponsors of the bill, said during the debate.
Currently, abortion is legal in Wisconsin up to 20 weeks’ gestation, after which it is only allowed in medical emergencies.
Abortion had been illegal in the state for a year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision in June 2022, thus allowing states to ban the procedure. The court’s decision put a 1849 law back into effect that made it a felony for “any person other than the mother” to “intentionally destroy the life of an unborn child.”
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul filed a lawsuit that argued that the 1849 ban was unenforceable. In December 2023, a Dane County judge ruled in their favor, saying that the 1849 law banned feticide, not consensual abortion.
Less than a month after that decision, which allowed abortions to resume in the state, Republican lawmakers are once again trying to limit abortion access in the state with the proposed 14-week ban. The bill would put the it on the ballot, and if a majority of voters approved the ballot measure, it would go into effect after the results of the referendum were certified.
Polls show that a majority of voters in Wisconsin support abortion rights.
A Marquette University poll conducted in June 2022 found that 58% of voters in Wisconsin believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
The bill now heads to the Republican-controlled state Senate; however, Evers has said he will veto it if it passes out of the Legislature.
“Republicans are advancing a bill that would ask Wisconsinites to strip themselves of some of the basic reproductive freedoms that were just recently restored to them. It provides no exceptions in cases of rape or incest,” Evers said in his State of the State address on Jan. 23.
Evers continued: “I want to speak directly to women in Wisconsin tonight: I will veto any bill that takes away your reproductive freedom or makes reproductive health care any less accessible in Wisconsin than it is today. Period.”