Wisconsin Gov. Evers calls special session to create pathway to repealing abortion ban

Tony Evers orders another special session related to the state's 1849 abortion law.
Tony Evers orders another special session related to the state's 1849 abortion law.(NBC15)
Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 9:42 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) is calling a special session of the legislature in attempt to repeal Wisconsin’s criminal abortion ban.

Evers on Wednesday signed an executive order calling the session for Oct. 4 at 10 a.m.

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Wisconsin reverted to its 1849 abortion ban that outlaws abortion in nearly all instances--including rape and incest. That law was implemented before women had the right to vote.

Unlike other states where abortion has been placed on the ballot, Wisconsin law does not allow voters to change state law by referendum. The process to amend the state’s constitution takes legislative passage and then a vote in an election. Evers is proposing changes that would allow voters to bypass the Legislature, creating a statewide binding referendum process through a constitutional amendment. Under this proposal, voters could file petitions with the Wisconsin Elections Commission to hold a vote on proposed state laws or amendments or to repeal a state law. If validated, a vote would be held at the next general election.

“As far as I’m concerned, the right of Wisconsinites to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions without interference from politicians is a fundamental freedom that shouldn’t have to be put to a vote—it was a right for nearly 50 years, it was a right until June 23rd, and it should still be a right today,” Gov. Evers said. “But Legislative Republicans have left no other choice. If they aren’t going to uphold the will of the people, then the people of this state should have the right to take a stand at the ballot box. At the end of the day, Wisconsinites—and women in particular—were not only stripped of their reproductive freedom, but they currently don’t have a right to enact the change they need to protect that freedom without having to get permission from the Legislature. That’s just wrong, and it’s time for us to change that.”

A recent Marquette University Law School Poll shows 63 percent of those polled in Wisconsin oppose the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. The poll also shows 83 percent of those polled believe Wisconsin should allow abortion in cases of rape and incest.

The Wisconsin Legislature is controlled by Republicans who are likely to “gavel in gavel out” at the special session. That means they take no action. That’s what happened at the last special session seeking to repeal the state’s abortion ban.

Gov. Evers is seeking re-election in November. His Republican challenger, Tim Michels, opposes legalizing abortion.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos called Evers’ proposal a “stunt.”