Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin suspends abortion services after Roe ruling

The two organizations have been in the middle of the abortion fight
Published: Jun. 24, 2022 at 6:57 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 24, 2022 at 10:07 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin has temporarily suspended abortion services in Wisconsin after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. On Friday, the high court ruled in the case Dobbs, State Health Officer of the Mississippi Department of Health et al v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization et. al.

The president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Tanya Atkinson, told us in an interview, “This is a dangerous decision, it’s a chilling decision, and it’s going to have devastating consequences for 1.3 million women across the state of Wisconsin of reproductive age, and for millions across the country.”

We also heard from leaders with the Wisconsin Right to Life organization who said today is a victory that’s been a long time coming.

“We are overjoyed. The pro-life movement has been working towards this outcome for decades,” Gracie Skogman, legislative director of Wisconsin Right to Life, told us.

“Since 1973 we’ve been working for Roe to be overturned. I mean, it’s been a generational movement. It’s really extraordinary because my grandma was working on this movement, my mom, and myself, and I think that’s the story of so many people in the Pro-Life movement,” Skogman continued.

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin provided abortion services at three locations. Its medical director says the organization had to cancel services for 70 people who were scheduled and waiting for their appointments Friday and Saturday.

“Today I had to look people in the eye and turn them away when they were seeking abortions,” Dr. Kathy King said. “This has really kind of shaken us to our core. The reality that we cannot provide this common, safe, medical procedure for our patients, is really devastating.”

Atksinon said, “We can help people navigate to a state where abortion remains safe and legal, where their decision to make their own health care needs known is respected. We can also provide travel assistance, if someone needs overnight housing, we can provide that and lost wages, so we can provide resources as well.”

Abortions made up a small fraction of the services provided at Planned Parenthood clinics, and the medical director emphasized all the clinics in the state are still open to help patients get the care they need.

“Planned Parenthood’s doors across the state are open, and we are here to help,” King said, “and providing appropriate follow-up care when they return home.”

Wisconsin Right to Life, too, said it is committed to helping women moving forward.

“Just focused on providing critical support to women who may be facing an unexpected or challenging pregnancy and are in need of medical assistance, support, housing -- we have emergency housing grants. We provide support to pregnancy resource centers, and we want to further those, further that impact and also create state funding for these programs,” Skogman said.

“We want to offer free medical support, housing if necessary, counseling, parenting classes. Some of these pregnancy resource centers are expanding and offering childcare, so we want to just continue those efforts and show that the pro-life movement cares deeply about women,” she added.

Article continues below the video

Planned Parenthood and Wisconsin Right to Life both tout their efforts to support women's health

Atkinson said in a written statement that her organization is awaiting clarification on whether Wisconsin’s 1849 ban is enforceable and is considering “all legal options”:

“The Supreme Court has taken away our constitutional right to abortion. This ruling takes away the freedom to control our bodies and personal health care decisions, giving it to politicians to decide.

Because Wisconsin’s criminal abortion law remains in place, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin has temporarily suspended abortion services until we receive clarification from a court about whether the law is enforceable. Know that we are exploring all legal options.

This news is devastating. Deciding if or when to become a parent is one of the most personal, life-changing decisions people make. You deserve the right to control your own body, life, and future. And access the health care that you need.

Although abortion services are not available in Wisconsin for now, Planned Parenthood’s doors across the state are open and we are here to help patients get the care they need. This includes helping patients access safe abortion care where it remains legal, offering travel assistance, and providing appropriate follow-up care when they return home.

Your health — and the health of the community — is our number one priority.

Planned Parenthood stands for care. And we won’t give up. Not now. Not ever.”

Tanya Atkinson, President and CEO PPWI

Justice Samuel Alito delivered the opinion of the court, which was concurred by Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Neil Gorsuch, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Justice Amy Coney Barrett and Chief Justice John Roberts.

“The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives,” reads the majority opinion.

CLICK HERE to read the full opinion.

“Next, the Court examines whether the right to obtain an abortion is rooted in the Nation’s history and tradition and whether it is an essential component of “ordered liberty.” The Court finds that the right to abortion is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and tradition. The underlying theory on which Casey rested—that the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause provides substantive, as well as procedural, protection for ‘liberty’—has long been controversial,” the opinion states.

Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagen filed the dissent, writing: “Some States have enacted laws extending to all forms of abortion procedure, including taking medication in one’s own home. They have passed laws without any exceptions for when the woman is the victim of rape or incest. Under those laws, a woman will have to bear her rapist’s child or a young girl her father’s—no matter if doing so will destroy her life.”

“Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens.”

PPWI previously announced it would pause abortion appointments on Saturday, June 25. That was in response to a leaked draft opinion that indicated the conservative wing of the court was ready to overturn the 1973 decision guaranteeing abortion rights in the United States.

The organization says financial help may be available for people who have to travel outside of Wisconsin to get an abortion. Illinois does not have an abortion ban.

The overturning of Roe means abortion laws will be enforced by states. Wisconsin would go back to the 1849 law that bans abortions except to save the life of the mother. The law was passed 12 years before the start of the Civil War. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) called a special session of the legislature to repeal the state’s abortion law, but the Republican-controlled legislature took no action. CLICK HERE to read Wisconsin’s abortion statute.

“We must now turn to Congress, state courts, and state legislatures. Our office is reviewing today’s decision and will be providing further information about how we intend to move forward next week,” says Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, a democrat. Kaul has said he would not investigate or prosecute anyone for having an abortion.

Gov. Evers told Action 2 News he believes Kaul will take court action to challenge the 1849 law.

“This is an unfathomably grim day for our state and our country. I am heartbroken—for the millions of Wisconsinites and Americans the U.S. Supreme Court has abandoned and for our country and our democratic institutions. This is an absolutely disastrous and unconscionable decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, the consequences of which I hoped to never see again in my lifetime. I know many across our state and nation are scared—worried about their own health and about the health and safety of their family members, friends, and neighbors, who could very soon see the ability to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions stripped from them. My heart breaks for them, I grieve for them, and I pray for their strength and courage in the days ahead.

“Our work to do the right thing for the people of this state must continue. We will fight this decision in every way we can with every power we have. As people in Wisconsin and across our country make their voices heard in the days and months ahead, we will do so peacefully and without violence. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again today: I will never stop fighting to make sure that every single Wisconsinite has the right to consult their family, their faith, and their doctor to make the reproductive healthcare decision that is right for them, and without interference from politicians or members of the Supreme Court who don’t know anything about their life circumstances, values, or responsibilities.”

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D)

“This is a massive victory for the sanctity of life in our Nation,” said Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg). “The Supreme Court’s long-awaited decision restores lawmaking authority to the states and finally gives Wisconsin voters a voice in how they want to protect the most vulnerable.”

Republican governor candidate Tim Michels called on Evers to “be ready for any impending acts of mass civil disobedience.”

““It is important that we continue to compassionately work on winning hearts and minds. We need to build a world that is safer for all, a world where better education is provided, and an economy that allows for all to prosper. Life must always be protected. We should not demonize those who don’t believe that, but rather redouble our efforts to show how they can provide a high quality of life for their children,” Michels said.

Republican governor candidate Rebecca Kleefisch said the decision was a “victory for unborn babies.”

A Marquette University Law School found 40 percent of adults nationwide say abortion is one of the most important issues to them.

“While abortion policy is a highly polarizing issue among elected members of Congress and state legislatures, opinion is not as strongly divided by party among the public. Table 4 shows that, while substantial majorities of Democrats and independents say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, a substantial minority of Republicans also say it should be legal always or mostly. A majority of Republicans say it should always or mostly be illegal,” reads the findings.

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