Liberals Win Control of Wisconsin Supreme Court as Abortion Decision Looms
Judge Janet Protasiewicz has been elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, giving liberals a majority on the court ahead of a decision that could determine the future of reproductive rights in the state. The Associated Press called the race just before 9 p.m. local time.
The race — between Protasiewicz and the conservative Daniel Kelly — was set spending records for , with more than $45 million having been spent ahead of Tuesday’s election. Protasiewicz will rule on several critical issues over the course of her 10-year term, but none is more immediately pertinent to voters than a lawsuit that will determine whether a 1849 ban on abortion remains in effect.
The law — which makes abortion a felony at any stage of pregnancy — had been dormant for decades before the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade last year allowed it to come back into effect. Wisconsin’s Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul filed a lawsuit challenging the law, and it’s expected to reach the state Supreme Court later this year. Wisconsin will become the first state that has outlawed abortion since Roe to reverse course and legalize it again, should the Supreme Court rule in Kaul’s favor.
It’s likely to do so now that the court has flipped from a conservative to a liberal majority, which will come as a relief to the state’s doctors. “It’s just not safe for me to practice any kind of medicine,” Dr. Kristin Lyerly, who has already stopped working in Wisconsin as a result of the 1849 law going back into effect, recently told Rolling Stone. “You just don’t know what a DA might charge you with. It’s affecting the way that all of my colleagues are providing their care — not just OB-GYN doctors, but also family medicine doctors, emergency medicine doctors, pediatricians, radiologists, you name it. Everybody is feeling this chilling effect.”
Protasiewicz warned that if Kelly won the race, the archaic law would stay on the books. “If my opponent is elected, I can tell you with 100 percent certainty, that 1849 abortion ban will stay on the books. I can tell you that,” Protasiewicz said. Protasiewicz hasn’t said explicitly how she will rule, but is a vocal supporter of abortion rights.