AG candidate to enforce abortion ban, Democrats rally against anti-abortion bills

NOW: AG candidate to enforce abortion ban, Democrats rally against anti-abortion bills

MADISON Wis. (CBS 58) -- Candidates on the ballot for the Wisconsin Attorney General race all agree -- if Roe v. Wade is eventually overturned it would turn into a messy legal fight, but how an abortion ban would be enforced is where they differ.

Abortion rights are now in the center of a hotly contested debate in Wisconsin politics after a leaked draft majority opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court suggested Roe v. Wade will be overturned. If that becomes reality, nearly all abortions in Wisconsin would become illegal expect when a mother's life is at risk.

The report sent shockwaves across the nation and has emboldened Republican candidates like Eric Toney who's running for Attorney General.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, Toney said he would enforce Wisconsin's 1849 law that makes abortions a felony punishable up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

"I will give out that support and guidance to prosecutors and law enforcement across Wisconsin because the Attorney General is statutorily obligated to give out that guidance," Toney said.

Toney, the Fond du Lac County district attorney, said it was premature to explain how he would bring charges against medical professionals who perform abortions because the high court hasn't delivered its ruling.

"This is a state issue and it always should have been, but I'm not going to go down the hypotheticals because we don't have an opinion from the Supreme Court yet," said Toney.

Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul has completely opposite views. If reelected, Kaul said he would not investigate or prosecute doctors who violate the 1849 abortion ban.

"Even if Wisconsin's 170+ year-old abortion ban comes back into effect, the resources of the Wisconsin Department of Justice, while I'm AG, are not going to be used to investigate or to prosecute anybody for alleged violations of that ban," Kaul said during an interview on Tuesday.

Kaul also argues the 1849 law is outdated, therefore it's unenforceable.

Toney and his GOP primary opponent Adam Jarchow criticized Kaul for his pledge to take a hands-off approach.

"Josh Kaul’s unwillingness to enforce the laws of Wisconsin should disqualify him from the job of Attorney General," Jarchow said in a statement. "As a pro-life father of two, I will always support the right to life."

A spokesman for Jarchow did not respond to questions whether he plans to enforce the law if elected.

Democrats: Stakes are High for Reproductive Rights

On the steps of the Capitol Thursday, Democratic lawmakers painted a reality of what could happen to reproductive rights if Wisconsin elects a Republican governor.

"They will pursue even more extreme restrictions on reproductive health," said State Rep. Lisa Subeck (D-Madison). "I know they [Republicans] will stop at nothing. For nearly a decade Republicans passed law after law to limit access to abortion and birth control."

Republicans, who control the state Legislature, did pass restrictive abortion bills last year, but Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vetoed them. It's likely they will try again and propose legislation to tighten abortion laws.

If Republicans win the governor's office, they would have a pathway to change abortion laws. If Evers wins a second term, Republicans still have a chance to gain seats in the legislature to reach a veto-proof majority.

It's an outcome Democrats are hoping to prevent.

"We can stop this by electing Democrats at every single level of government," said State Sen. Kelda Roys (D-Madison).

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