Courts

Sheboygan County DA appeals ruling on 1849 law that cleared way for abortions to resume in Wisconsin

Sheboygan County District Attorney Joel Urmanski appealed a ruling by a Dane County judge that found there is no state ban on abortions — the appeal was expected and the case is likely to be decided by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Associated Press

December 20, 2023

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People holding a variety of hand-drawn signs stand in a crowd on a marble floor at the bottom of a rotunda with square pillars affixed with illuminated electric sconces, with more people gathered on a second and holding banners draped over the edge of a balustrade, and additional people gathered on a third, recessed level behind balustrades connecting spaces supported by square and round pillars, with a glass-paneled skylight in one wing of the building illuminating the space from above.

Protesters gather in the Wisconsin Capitol Rotunda to call for overturning the state's near total ban on abortion on Jan. 22, 2023, in Madison. Republican Sheboygan County District Attorney Joel Urmanski on Dec. 20 appealed a ruling by a Dane County judge that found there is no state ban on abortions. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)


AP News

By Scott Bauer, AP

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Republican district attorney has appealed a court ruling that determined that an 1849 Wisconsin law does not ban abortions, a decision that cleared the way for abortions to resume in the state.

Sheboygan County District Attorney Joel Urmanski on Dec. 20 appealed the ruling from a Dane County judge that said there is no state ban on abortions. The appeal was expected and the case is likely to ultimately be decided by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Urmanski asked that the appeal be heard in the state’s Waukesha-based 2nd District Court of Appeals, where three of the four judges are conservative. Appeals are heard by three-judge panels.

Any appeal of a ruling there would go to the state Supreme Court, where liberals hold a 4-3 majority. The most recently elected liberal justice, Janet Protasiewicz, campaigned as a supporter of abortion rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, which overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, led to Planned Parenthood stopping abortions in Wisconsin. The group cited the state’s 1849 law, which was widely viewed as banning the procedure.

Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul sued to overturn the law, naming Urmanski in Sheboygan County and prosecutors in Dane and Milwaukee counties as defendants. Those are the counties where Planned Parenthood had clinics that offered abortions.

Dane County Circuit Judge Dianne Schlipper ruled in July that the 1849 ban doesn’t use the term “abortion” and that the law therefore only prohibits attacking a woman in an attempt to kill her unborn child. She issued her final order on Dec. 5, which opened the door for the appeal.

Planned Parenthood reopened clinics in Madison and Milwaukee that perform abortions soon after the July ruling. A third clinic in Sheboygan is scheduled to reopen at the end of December.

District attorneys in all three counties where the clinics are located, including Urmanski, have said they will abide by the judge’s ruling while the case plays out.

Marquette University Law School polls conducted since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade have shown that a majority of Wisconsin residents opposed that ruling and support legalized abortion.

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