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Wisconsin doctors suspend abortion services

SCOTUS decision leads to abortion ban in Wisconsin
SCOTUS decision leads to abortion ban in Wisconsin 01:43

MADISON, Wis. -- Doctors across Wisconsin immediately stopped providing abortions on Friday, turning away women in waiting rooms and calling to cancel pending appointments following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling striking down its Roe v. Wade decision.

The immediate halt to abortions came even as questions remained about the enforceability of a 173-year-old state ban.

Wisconsin's Planned Parenthood says that they are "temporarily suspending" abortion services and looking at legal options following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

The president and CEO of Wisconsin's Planned Parenthood, Tanya Atkinson, says they will still help patients navigate to states where abortion remains legal.

Nearly 70 women had abortion procedures scheduled with Planned Parenthood Wisconsin on Friday and Saturday, the group's medical director, Kathy King, said at a news conference.

Wisconsin has an 1849 law that bans abortion, except to save the life of the mother, but whether that law is enforceable was expected to be the center of yet-to-be-filed lawsuits. Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, said he would have news next week about next steps in reaction to the court's ruling.

The nonpartisan Wisconsin Legislative Council, which is comprised of attorneys who advise the Legislature, indicated in a memo that the enforceability of the state ban will likely have to be decided by a judge.

Barbara Zabawa, an attorney who specializes in health care law and serves as an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's college of health sciences, said she believes Wisconsin's abortion ban went back into effect when the Supreme Court issued its ruling, but that enforceability will be the issue.

It's understandable that local prosecutors wouldn't enforce a law that was written more than 100 years ago, declared unconstitutional in 1973 and then reinstated, said Sara Benesh, chairwoman of UW-Milwaukee's political science department.

"All of this is going to have tons of litigation," she said. "It's going to be a disaster (for women with unwanted pregnancies) as we figure this out."

Under the Wisconsin law, doctors could be charged with felonies for performing abortions and face up to six years in prison and $10,000 in fines. Ismael Ozanne, the district attorney who oversees the Madison area, said he would not enforce the ban. 

A Republican candidate for governor, Tim Michels, earlier this week called on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to put the Wisconsin National Guard on alert in the event of violent protests. The office of an anti-abortion group in Madison was vandalized last month and no one has been arrested.

On Wednesday, Wisconsin's Republican-controlled Legislature refused to overturn the state's ban as Evers called on them to do. Evers is making abortion rights a pillar of his reelection campaign, as are Democrats looking to take on Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson.

In Eau Claire, college student Kate Trudell said she was upset over the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. "I'm kinda scared, I guess," she said. "I feel like it's a lot of my rights being taken away." 

Another Wisconsinite disappointed in the decision, Brianna Crandall, noted how some women might have trouble traveling to another state to get an abortion. Beyond coming to Minnesota, women in Wisconsin could also seek abortions in Illinois.

In May, WCCO's Caroline Cummings reported on how Planned Parenthood in Minnesota is preparing for a surge in women seeking abortions.

"We've been working on a number of different models for a while to see if we can get our arms around it, assuming Minnesota becomes land locked and the only safest place to get an abortion," she said.

Planned Parenthood North Central States issued a statement Friday morning, saying that abortion rights remain intact in Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa.

"The U.S. Supreme Court decision is wrong and will harm millions of people," Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States said, adding:

"This decision is an unconscionable rollback of fundamental rights for all people in the United States. Because people's right to access abortion is no longer guaranteed by federal law, it now depends on where you live and how much money you have to travel out of state for abortion care. Forced pregnancy is a grave violation of human rights and dignity. We have been preparing for months to be able to best serve patients across our region. Our doors are open and Planned Parenthood is committed to providing abortion care where it remains legal. We have a lot of work ahead of us. We are now living through an unmatched moment where our rights to bodily autonomy are being decimated and, therefore, our democracy is being threatened. Now is the time for every person who supports abortion rights to stand up and act."

Trigger laws in North and South Dakota end abortion rights in those states.

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