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Reproductive rights in Wisconsin still up for debate nearly two years after overturning of Roe v. Wade

After several lawsuits and appeals, the final decision to protect abortion rights will likely come from the Wisconsin Supreme Court
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Posted at 11:19 AM, Mar 11, 2024

MILWAUKEE — A look at the history of reproductive rights in Wisconsin.

"It's not just an individual thing, it also impacts us as a community, as a whole,” said Shantell Riley, registered nurse and certified grief counselor.

For Riley, having access to an abortion came at a young age.

Facing an unplanned pregnancy in her teens, she says she wasn't ready to become a mother.

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This is Shantell Riley. She’s a registered nurse and newly certified abortion doula, who was inspired to do so after her own journey getting two abortions back in the 1990s.

"I wanted to make sure that I had the ability to be able to care for children when I was able to do so versus having children and trying to figure out how to care for them,” said Riley.

Nearly 30 years later, she says she still remembers every moment.

"I made the decision, which I feel was best for me at the time, and I don't regret it,” said Riley.

The ability to make that choice wasn't something she was worried would ever go away, until Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022.

That gave power back to the states, which in turn, brought back Wisconsin's 1849 abortion ban.

“It was never taken off the books but it wasn't enforceable. So, it was just kind of laying in wait, if you will,” said Lisa Mazzie, professor of legal writing at Marquette Law School.

Since that day, our state legislature has gone back and forth, fighting to determine what is considered legal.

"The ability for those people to structure their lives is so important for them to determine how their lives should go, not for the state to determine,” said Mazzie.

After several lawsuits and appeals, the final decision will likely come from the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Marquette Law Professor Lisa Mazzie says it is just another mark in a long history of a hot-button issue.

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This is Lisa Mazzie, Professor of Legal Writing at Marquette Law School.

"There are always new bills being introduced that provide limits on those rights, any attempts to repeal 940.04 have been unsuccessful every single time,” said Mazzie.

Riley says that uncertainty can make an already overwhelming situation even more challenging.

"It's very difficult when someone who does not have that same ability to walk your journey, to make decisions, not knowing how it may impact you or future generations to come thereafter,” said Riley.

To fight that, she recently became certified as an abortion doula, where she works directly with women who are trying to navigate the process and offer the support she wishes she had.

"You deserve the right to be able to grieve and knowing that you should not feel guilty about that because that was a personal choice for you. And no one has a right to make you feel bad about your personal choices,” said Riley.