Sheboygan County DA becomes 1st in Wisconsin to say he will prosecute doctors accused of performing abortions

NOW: Sheboygan County DA becomes 1st in Wisconsin to say he will prosecute doctors accused of performing abortions

SHEBOYGAN COUNTY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Sheboygan County District Attorney Joel Urmanski says he will prosecute abortion providers if there's an alleged violation against Wisconsin's 1849 abortion ban. 

It comes as dozens of prosecutors across the country are pledging to not press charges in wake of Friday's U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, a decision that shifts the spotlight to states who are left to decide the fate of abortion access. 

Sheboygan County District Attorney Joel Urmanski tells CBS 58 he will enforce Wisconsin's 1849 abortion law that criminally bans the procedure in almost all cases. It makes performing an abortion a felony, with doctors at risk of facing up to six years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines, according to state law. 

"If there is a violation, we will enforce the law," Urmanski said. "Its a law that's on the books through legislative action. You are seeing other states passing laws or enforcing laws to address this issue. If there's a higher court that says there's a problem with the statute, then we'll follow that."

Urmanski's comments are significant after district attorneys in Dane and Milwaukee County vowed to not press charges against abortion providers. There are four abortion clinics in Wisconsin operated by Planned Parenthood in Dane, Milwaukee, Brown and Sheboygan County.

Those Planned Parenthood clinics stopped abortion procedures as of last week, but Attorney General Josh Kaul said district attorneys in those counties still have significant leeway in what cases they prosecute. 

"The possibility that someone could be prosecuted is still there," Kaul said. "Our suit will resolve that issue."

Kaul added his lawsuit filed this week challenging the state's 173-year-old abortion ban will provide more clarity for prosecutors, law enforcement and many others patiently awaiting a decision. 

The Wisconsin Department of Justice will not use its resources to investigate or charge doctors who perform abortions, Kaul said, as long as he remains in office. Gov. Tony Evers has also encouraged district attorneys to follow Kaul's lead and offered clemency to providers if penalized. Both Kaul and Evers face reelection this fall.

Gov. Evers did not respond to questions during an event in Milwaukee Wednesday regarding whether he would use his authority to remove district attorneys who prosecute abortion providers who violate the 1849 law. 

Kaul said he opposes using executive power to fire Urmanski and other elected officials. 

"I don't think we should have a system where we have a governor, when he or she disagrees with someone like a DA, just removes them." 

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