Republicans, anti-abortion groups slam lawsuit challenging state abortion ban

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The Republican leader of the Assembly and anti-abortion groups say they will fight to uphold Wisconsin's 1849 abortion ban in wake of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' administration filing a lawsuit seeking to maintain access to the procedure.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said he will "vigorously defend" Wisconsin's near-total ban on abortions passed in 1849, which is now the center of a legal battle whether that law reverts back after the U.S Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last week.

“Abortion isn’t health care and for the governor and attorney general to try and use the courts to enact law is just as wrong as the original Roe v. Wade decision over 50 years ago," Vos said in a statement. "I’m confident our courts will see through their tactics and uphold the law.”

Attorney General Josh Kaul filed a lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court Tuesday, June 28, arguing abortion laws passed in 1849 and in 1985 banning the procedures are outdated -- and therefore claimed all abortions remain legal.

The anti-abortion group, Wisconsin Family Action, believes all abortions are currently illegal in Wisconsin following the high court's decision and slammed the legal challenge.

"Kaul is wrong and his job is to enforce duly enacted law which this is," said Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action. "We have worked long and hard to keep this law on the books and I'm disappointed our attorney general has said all along he won't enforce it."

Kaul has vowed not to use resources at the Department of Justice to prosecute abortion providers and encouraged district attorneys to follow suit. Gov. Evers also offered clemency to doctors who provide abortions.

The lawsuit comes days after abortion providers halted their services after Roe was overturned, forcing some women to carry out their pregnancies or seek care in other states. Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin stopped taking appointments last week out of fear of being criminally charged under state laws that pre-date Roe v. Wade.

"Ultimately, we are in a powerful position to defend life today in Wisconsin far more powerful than where we were last Thursday," said Gracie Skogam, legislative director of Wisconsin Right to Life, in response to the lawsuit.

All four Republican candidates running for governor have vowed to uphold the 1849 law that prohibits abortions unless a mother's life is in danger, which does not include exceptions for rape or incest.

Former Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, business owner Tim Michels, business consultant Kevin Nicholson, and State Rep. Tim Ramthun indicated if elected they would fire district attorneys or sheriffs who don't enforce the abortion ban.

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