Evers in State of the State address vows to veto any bill that would limit access to abortions

The speech comes as the Evers enters his sixth year as governor working with a Republican-led Legislature.
Posted at 10:04 AM, Jan 24, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-24 11:04:36-05

MADISON (AP) — Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers vowed in his State of the State speech Tuesday to veto any bill that would limit access to abortions, even as Republicans move forward with a measure that would let voters weigh in on whether it should be banned after 14 weeks of pregnancy.

The speech comes as Evers and Republicans who control the Legislature have had some bipartisan successes, but continue to fight over redistricting, abortion, tax cuts, election administration and other key issues in a presidential election year.

Evers, like many Democrats nationwide, made abortion rights a focus of his winning 2022 campaign, and he returned to that theme again Tuesday. He noted that his opponent, Republican Tim Michels, supported banning abortions and lost.

“I want to speak directly to women in Wisconsin tonight,” Evers said. “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.”

Evers announced that enrollees in the state’s BadgerCare Plus Medicaid program will have access to over-the-counter contraception, including emergency contraception, without a separate prescription. The medication will be provided without any out-of-pocket costs, Evers said.

Evers also renewed his pledge to fight efforts to make it more difficult to vote in the battleground state. Evers has vetoed a raft of Republican proposals over the past five years that seek to make changes to election administration in the state.

Evers said that in coming weeks he will be announcing new steps his administration is taking to increase voter turnout. He didn’t reveal any details.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Evers offered no new ideas in the speech. He said he was particularly disappointed that Evers didn’t mention cutting taxes as Republicans have proposed.

“We’re going to move forward with our plan and hopefully Gov. Evers once he has a chance to review them will sign them into law,” Vos said.

Evers called on Republicans and Democrats to work together to address Wisconsin’s workforce shortages, declaring 2024 the “Year of the Worker.”

The speech comes as the Evers enters his sixth year as governor working with a Republican-led Legislature. That majority is projected to be weakened under new legislative maps ordered by the Wisconsin Supreme Court after it ruled that the current Republican-drawn maps were unconstitutional.

Evers won reelection in 2022, part of a continuation of recent Democratic victories that include last year’s spring election that flipped majority control of the state Supreme Court in favor of liberals.

Evers said the public’s widespread support of abortion rights as shown in statewide and nationwide polls shows the importance of having maps that fairly reflect the population.

“When elected officials gerrymander themselves into safe seats, they can comfortably ignore the overwhelming majority of Wisconsinites,” Evers said.

In his speech delivered before lawmakers, members of the state Supreme Court, tribal leaders and others, Evers highlighted bipartisan successes in the past year, including an agreement on a plan to pay for repairs to the Milwaukee Brewers’ stadium that will keep the team in Wisconsin through at least 2050.

But much partisan rancor remains and is growing.

Republicans have repeatedly tried, and failed, to get Evers to sign off on multiple tax cut plans. Republicans are also preparing for the Supreme Court to institute new maps that would greatly weaken their majorities. Evers has proposed his own map, along with lawmakers and others, which the court is considering.

Despite the divisions, Evers called on Republicans and Democrats to work together to address the state’s worker shortages and a lack of affordable housing and child care.