By Milwaukee Courier Staff
April 4th, folks in Wisconsin will go to the polls to cast their vote in an election with enormous consequences: the race for an open seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
As the state’s highest court, the Supreme Court makes the final call on how state laws are applied, and issues opinions that can impact every part of life: from health care, to job safety, to protections for clean air and water. This year, one issue is more front and center than any other—the question of whether women in Wisconsin are able to seek a safe and legal abortion.
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 2022 to overturn Roe v. Wade, a ban on abortion first passed in Wisconsin in 1849 effectively came back into force, ending access to safe and legal abortion in the state. Today, Wisconsinites seeking reproductive care are forced to travel across state lines to access reproductive health care in places like Illinois, where it remains legal.
Dan Kelly is the Republican-aligned candidate in the race for Wisconsin Supreme Court, and he would undoubtedly uphold the 1849 ban, which is currently being challenged in court and could very well end up before the candidate elected in April’s election.
Kelly’s campaign has been endorsed by special interest groups such as Wisconsin Right to Life and Pro-Life Wisconsin, who are actively campaigning for full enforcement of the 1849 ban. Kelly has also already said that only Wisconsin’s Legislature can overturn the state’s abortion ban. Given that the Legislature is currently controlled by a gerrymandered Republican majority unwilling to repeal the ban, this would almost certainly mean Kelly’s ruling would effectively uphold the ban and lead to its full enforcement across Wisconsin.
Wisconsin has already faced enormous consequences as a result of the 1849 abortion ban.
Patients experiencing dire complications during pregnancy are left with few good options for life-saving care, and doctors face real risks of prosecution. While the ban does make a narrow exception to save the life of a patient, there is no clear guidance on when a case becomes life-threatening, leaving doctors to consult with lawyers before providing care to patients.
In one case reported on by the Washington Post, a Wisconsin patient was left to bleed for 10 days before doctors felt they could legally step in to save their life.
The effects of the 1849 ban are also far-reaching, threatening to make Wisconsin’s dire shortage of qualified OB-GYNs even worse. According to UW Health, 27 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties today have no OB-GYN to deliver babies and provide reproductive health care. Under the 1849 ban, Wisconsin medical schools have struggled to provide training to medical students and residents. Students training to be OB-GYNs in Wisconsin may be forced to go out of state for residencies, or could elect to attend medical school in another state entirely.
Dan Kelly has made clear how he would rule in any challenge of Wisconsin’s abortion ban. With Kelly on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Wisconsinites could see a law from 1849 enforced by Republican District Attorneys across the state, or by a future Republican Attorney General.
Wisconsin has already seen enormous consequences as a result of the state’s 1849 abortion ban, and electing Dan Kelly to the Wisconsin Supreme Court would make those consequences permanent—endangering lives and putting doctors at risk of jail time.