Republican legislators in Wisconsin were poised Wednesday to meet in a special session that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers called to repeal the battleground state’s dormant abortion ban and quickly adjourn without taking any action.
Wisconsin adopted a ban on abortion except to save the mother’s life in 1849, a year after the territory became a state. The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that essentially legalized abortion nationwide in 1973 nullified the ban.
The court is expected to rule this month in a case that could end Roe v. Wade, which would allow Wisconsin’s ban to go back into effect. Evers on June 8 called the Legislature into a special session Wednesday to repeal the ban.
Republicans have blasted the move as a political stunt designed to please the Democratic base as Evers faces reelection in November. GOP leaders in the Assembly and Senate planned to gavel in to start the special session around noon Wednesday and then end it by gaveling out immediately.
The state ban will likely be challenged in court should Roe v. Wade be overturned.
One major question is how the ban would interact with a related state law passed in 1985 that prohibits abortions after the fetus has reached viability but has an exemption for women whose health could be endangered by continuing the pregnancy. Abortion-rights groups have argued for a broad interpretation of that exemption to include a woman’s emotional and mental health.
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, has said he thinks the 1849 law is too old to enforce. He has also said he will not investigate or prosecute doctors who perform abortions if the old law does take effect again.
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