‘The people have spoken’: Wisconsin abortion advocates tout midterm turnout, Democratic victories

MADISON, Wis. — Abortion rights advocates who worked to rally support for Democratic candidates after the fall of the Roe vs. Wade decision said Wednesday that victories by Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul are proof of voters’ support for abortion access.

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin President and CEO Tanya Atkinson said during a virtual press conference Wednesday that the midterm results — which she called historic — brought advocates closer to overturning Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban.

“Thanks to supporters of reproductive freedom, we are one step closer to restoring, protecting and expanding abortion access,” Atkinson said. “The people have spoken, and it is time to restore access to abortion in Wisconsin.”

The state’s 173-year-old ban, which establishes a felony charge for healthcare providers who perform abortions, has no exceptions for rape or incest. It also carries a penalty of up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine that increases to 15 years in prison and a $50,000 fine if the fetus is past sixteen weeks of development.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision, Kaul said he wouldn’t enforce the state’s abortion ban and later filed a lawsuit alongside Gov. Evers seeking to repeal the law altogether. In 2018, while campaigning against then-Attorney General Brad Schimel, Kaul said he thought the ban should be repealed.

Earlier this year, Gov. Evers called a special session of the state’s legislature to vote on approving a statewide referendum that would let voters decide on whether or not to repeal the ban. Republicans in both chambers gaveled out of their respective sessions in less than a minute.

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Atkins and Planned Parenthood Wisconsin’s Executive Director Steven Webb said outreach to voters has overwhelmingly showed them voters still had abortion access on their minds ahead of Election Day.

“Time and time again, we have heard from voters on the doors, on the phone and online: Criminalizing abortion in Wisconsin is not the future we want for ourselves or loved ones,” Webb said.

Since the fall of the Roe vs. Wade decision, advocates spent countless hours making phone calls, knocking on doors, and sharing messaging online to try and draw voters to the polls with abortion as a driving force. Webb said organizers reached a combined 1.25 million voters with their combined efforts.

“The Supreme Court decision changed the election narrative and closed the voter enthusiasm gap for the midterm elections,” Atkinson added.