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Attorneys weigh in on legality of abortions in Wisconsin amid Planned Parenthood's announcement

“It's once the Supreme Court finally makes a decision or it goes all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, that's when we'll finally know," he said.
Planned Parenthood Meridian
Posted at 4:19 PM, Sep 14, 2023

MILWAUKEE — Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin says it is confident abortion care can currently be provided in the state.

Planned Parenthood says it’s already taking calls for appointments and it will resume providing abortions on Monday at its Milwaukee and Madison clinics.

An attorney who isn’t affiliated with Planned Parenthood or the abortion lawsuits in Wisconsin thinks Planned Parenthood is taking a legal risk, but one that is calculated.

"The people of Wisconsin could not wait any longer,” said Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin President Tanya Atkinson.

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin held an abrupt news conference Thursday morning to share details about its plans. Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin Legal Services Director Michelle Velasquez said their analysis determined medical abortions are legal in Wisconsin and they’re preparing to provide them.

"We've also consistently said since the Dobbs decision that there were two paths to restoring access to abortion in Wisconsin,” she said. "That first path was potentially a legislative one. And that second potential path was a legal one."

The current path is already in court.

Velasquez says a Dane County judge made it clear two months ago that the state’s 1849 abortion ban law does not apply to consensual abortions due to a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling three decades ago.

But the Dane County judge’s decision on the legality of abortions in Wisconsin is not a final decision. Velasquez acknowledged that on Thursday.

“Unless or until there is an adverse decision whether it be from this court or another court that may hear this case we would continue to provide services until or unless such time there is a ruling explicitly prohibiting abortion services in Wisconsin,” she said.

Michael Maistelman is an attorney who has no ties to Planned Parenthood or the abortion lawsuits.

"I don't think it's going to be problematic in the end,” he said.

“Without a final ruling, is this crystal clear whether it’s legal?” TMJ4 reporter Ben Jordan asked.

"It's never crystal clear,” he said. “It's once the Supreme Court finally makes a decision or it goes all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, that's when we'll finally know. I think that Planned Parenthood does have a pretty good, strong leg to stand on."

Maistelman says that’s largely because the Dane County judge already indicated her position on the case, and the Milwaukee and Dane County district attorneys have joined the state’s attorney general in saying they will not prosecute physicians who perform medical abortions.

Atkinson says the decision to proceed has nothing to do with the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s new liberal majority. The state’s highest court is expected to take the case in the coming months.

"This is a medical decision, not a political decision,” she said.

While the Madison and Milwaukee locations are set to resume abortions on Monday, that isn’t the case for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin’s third location in Sheboygan.

Planned Parenthood says that isn’t because Sheboygan County’s district attorney said he would prosecute abortions, rather it’s working on staffing and logistical issues at that location.


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