On June 14, 10 days before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and all but eliminated abortion access in Wisconsin, Dr. Dennis Christensen bought a $350,000 building in Rockford, Illinois. The writing had been on the wall long before the May 2 leak that telegraphed the court’s decision, and a consortium of local providers, activists and philanthropists — including Christensen, a mostly retired Milwaukee- and Madison-area gynecologist now in his 80s — had been quietly preparing for months.
“We can no longer sit on our laurels and think that someone else out there is going to help restore bodily autonomy in Wisconsin,” says Jeanne Bissell, president of the newly formed 501(c)(3) Rockford Family Planning Foundation — a group formed in direct response to the fall of Roe, which automatically triggered Wisconsin’s existing 1849 law that makes abortion a felony unless it’s to save the life of the mother. “There’s no one else that’s going to come save us. We have to do this ourselves. And our power together is where we get our strength.”