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Republican DA asks Wisconsin Supreme Court to issue ruling on abortion lawsuit

Sheboygan County District Attorney Joel Urmanski is asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to decide whether state law bans abortions before the case goes through any lower appellate courts.

Associated Press

February 21, 2024

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Diane Schlipper sits in a high-backed leather chair behind a judicial dais with the U.S. and Wisconsin flags on either side in the background and faces a computer monitor, with another court officer seated at a lower tier of the dais and facing two monitors, another court officer standing next to a closed door, and with multiple people seated in rolling chairs at multiple tables facing the dais in a room with wood-paneled walls.

Dane County Circuit Court Judge Diane Schlipper presides over a May 4, 2023 hearing on a lawsuit that challenged an 1849 Wisconsin law. Schlipper ruled in July and reaffirmed in December that the law addresses feticide and does not ban abortion in the state. Sheboygan County District Attorney Joel Urmanski appealed that ruling and is seeking for the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take the case without it going through lower appellate courts. (Credit: PBS Wisconsin)


AP News

By Todd Richmond, AP

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Republican prosecutor asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Feb. 20 to decide whether a 174-year-old state law bans abortion in the state without waiting for a ruling from a lower appellate court.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision legalizing abortion, reactivated an 1849 law that conservatives have interpreted as banning abortion.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, filed a lawsuit arguing that the law is too old to enforce and conflicts with a 1985 law permitting abortions before fetuses can survive outside the womb. Dane County Circuit Judge Diane Schlipper ruled in July 2023 that since the law doesn’t use the term “abortion,” it only prohibits attacking a woman in an attempt to kill her unborn child. The ruling emboldened Planned Parenthood to resume offering abortions in the state.

Sheboygan County District Attorney Joel Urmanski, a Republican who is defending the statutes as a ban, said in December that he would appeal the Dane County ruling. He filed a petition with the state Supreme Court on Feb. 20 asking the justices to take the case without waiting for a decision from a lower state appeals court.

Urmanski’s attorney, Matt Thome, wrote in the petition that the state Supreme Court should decide the appeal because its ruling will have a statewide impact and guide policymakers. The case will eventually end up before the high court anyway, he added.

The petition states that Kaul agrees that the state Supreme Court should take the appeal directly. State Justice Department spokesperson Melanie Conklin had no immediate comment.

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin’s chief strategy officer, Michelle Velasquez, said in a statement that the organization agrees that allowing the appeal to go through lower courts would only create needless delays before the Supreme Court issues a final decision.

Urmanski faces an uphill battle if the state Supreme Court takes the case. Liberal justices control the court, and one of them, Justice Janet Protasiewicz, repeatedly stated on the campaign trail last year that she supports abortion rights.

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