The Reality of Reproductive Rights in Wisconsin

We knew this summer would be a historic one. Friday, June 24th certainly proved this to be true.

During the week leading up to this date, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered their decisions for their term, including the highly-anticipated case, Dobbs v. Jackson. The announcement broke, and in that instant fifty years of precedent immediately was overturned, effectively rolling back the rights for millions of Americans.

Wisconsin remains one of several states with an existing pre-Roe criminal abortion ban dating back to 1849, which now is in effect. This archaic ban prohibits nearly all abortions with no exceptions for rape or incest. Medical providers in Wisconsin can now be criminalized for performing abortions.

Americans were preparing for this official decision after a draft opinion was leaked weeks ago, but it doesn’t make this news any easier. I never thought I’d see a time when the rights of women and people I know are more restricted now than when I was growing up.

This is the reality – and it speaks volumes to where, we as a nation, stand today.

No matter someone’s political leaning, I believe most Americans are frustrated by the current political gridlock, on both the state and federal level. We can point to a number of reasons in an attempt to explain how our country got to this point. But in the end, we know what this political gridlock and inaction has cost us.

The will of the American people is being ignored. The Dobbs v. Jackson decision is a prime example. A majority of Wisconsinites support abortion in all or most cases. Despite this fact, Wisconsin’s Majority Party has introduced legislation over the years to restrict Wisconsinites’ access to reproductive health care. Majority Party members celebrated this decision, even when data is available showing the tragic ramifications that could come from it.

Maternal mortality rates in the United States are the highest among developed nations. Wisconsin’s infant and maternal mortality rates are still some of the highest in our country. And yet, legislation passed this session and this Supreme Court decision fail to address the existing inequities and challenges relating to pregnancy, childbirth and childrearing.

Wisconsinites want – and deserve – access to quality health care. Reproductive health care, including abortion, is no exception. Wisconsinites should be able to consult with their medical provider, family members and those in their lives about their personal health care decisions without politicians getting in the way.

I am listening to the majority of Wisconsinites who agree. On June 22nd, I came to Madison for a special session called by Governor Evers to protect Wisconsinites’ reproductive rights. In light of the leaked Supreme Court decision months ago, advocates across the state reached out to their elected officials demanding Wisconsin’s criminal abortion ban be overturned.

The Majority Party refused to listen, once again. My Democratic colleagues and I showed up and we tried participating in a debate, but we were shut down. In just thirteen seconds, the Majority Party permitted the state’s criminal abortion ban to stay on the books – a law passed decades before women even had the right to vote.

Wisconsinites are tired of being ignored by their elected officials. Wisconsinites are tired of issues being rejected although they’re supported overwhelmingly by the public. Wisconsinites are tired of politicians looking after their own self-interest, rather than the betterment of the entire state.

I understand this, and I won’t give up and neither should you. I’ve always said one of my favorite parts of my job is to listen and learn from you – and I mean that. As a legislator, it is my privilege to represent you and stand up for what you support.

These are difficult days for many Americans. Times like these show you the value of community and the promise of resilience. We’ll continue working ahead for a future that looks brighter for all—a future that guarantees individuals’ freedom and bodily autonomy. A future with leaders who respect the will of the people and will preserve our democratic republic.

The work does not stop here – we keep moving forward together.