Planned Parenthood WI to announce legal moves soon, Gov. Evers says more info on lawsuits coming this week
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin is preparing to take legal action to help expand access to abortion services in the state after the fall of Roe v Wade.
The organization says those plans will be revealed relatively soon after working with its national attorneys and outside counsel.
Virtually the entire legal community in Wisconsin is talking about the abortion law, which is being described as murky at best.
Monday Governor Tony Evers talked about clemency for violators. Attorney General Josh Kaul has talked about enforceability. All the while it may take a lawsuit in court to get some clarity.
Michelle Velasquez, the director of legal advocacy and services for Planned Parenthood Wisconsin, said, "We have landed on what it is we're going to do to move forward."
Earlier Monday the ACLU sued the state of Texas to restore abortion access there.
BREAKING: We’re suing Texas to restore early abortion access for two more months or longer.— ACLU (@ACLU) June 27, 2022
Attorney General Paxton wants to stop all abortion and is threatening unlawful prosecutions of abortion providers under an antiquated pre-Roe law.
We won’t let him without a fight.
Velasquez would not yet say what the plan is in Wisconsin. She insists Planned Parenthood's tactic in Wisconsin is the product of extensive and ongoing planning, saying, "At the center of that legal strategy is really a goal of protecting abortion access."
She says Planned Parenthood does not believe the state's 173-year-old abortion law automatically springs back to life. But the organization still suspended abortion services out of an abundance of caution.
On Monday in Milwaukee, Governor Tony Evers spoke about abortion rights, saying, "This is not over yet, we're going to continue to fight."
He says he'll grant clemency to anyone prosecuted for performing an abortion: "If any physician is arrested and tried and about to enter jail for one to six years for doing the same thing they have done for the last 50 years, that's wrong. Clemency will be on the table there."
But clemency, too, is murky. One of the conditions for clemency on the governor's website lists "it has been at least five years since you finished any criminal sentence."
Of clemency, Velasquez said, "I don't see it as a path for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, at this point and time, to reinstate services."
If the 1849 law is deemed viable, Attorney General Josh Kaul won't enforce it. Over the weekend he said, "It does not serve the health or the safety of Wisconsinites to enforce a 19th century abortion ban, and we are not going to do it at the Wisconsin Department of Justice."
Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm is among the signees of a letter released Friday that says "we decline to use our offices’ resources to criminalize reproductive health decisions." It continues to say they'll "refrain from prosecuting those who seek, provide, or support abortions."
Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne indicated Friday he would not prosecute abortion cases, saying he will only prosecute cases that affect community safety.
Ozanne said, "If the voters want a district attorney who prosecutes women for seeking an abortion or licensed providers who are acting in the best interest of their patients, they will need to elect someone else."
Dr. Sara Benesh, Associate Professor and Chair of the UW-Milwaukee Political Science Department, says that's legal. She said, "DAs do have a lot of discretion over prosecution. If they say they won't prosecute, abortion providers could resume."
She says the November election could decide the long term viability of abortion protections. She said, "I suspect if a Republican wins the Governorship, the state legislature will act to renew the 1849 statute, at least in some part. As it stands now, any attempt to do so would result in a veto which, given the current makeup of the state legislature, would not be overridden. All that changes if the makeup of the legislature or Governor changes."
Right now, there is no legal deadline approaching but service providers say timing is critical for patients needing care.
Velasquez said, "This has real life impact. This is causing harm, and will cause harm."
It's important to remember the 1849 law that may be enforced does not criminalize the pregnant person, only the abortion provider.
Governor Evers says he'll talk with Attorney General Kaul Tuesday or Wednesday, and says we'll know more about potential lawsuits this week.