Planned Parenthood Will Resume Abortion Services in Wisconsin. That Doesn’t Mean Everything Is Fixed.

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For the first time since Dobbs, people can access care at two locations.

On Monday, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin will resume abortion care for the first time in over a year. The organization will start fielding calls and emails for appointments at two locations, the Water Street Health Center in Milwaukee and the East Health Center in Madison.

Planned Parenthood paused all abortion services following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs, which ended the constitutional right to abortion and triggered a 1849 state law that for all intents and purposes banned abortion in the state. The ability to again provide abortion care comes after a judge ruled that the 1849 statute did not apply. 

“It’s a really exciting day for people to know that they can access the health care that they need, when they need it, here, without having to figure out how they might get out of state,” Michelle Velasquez, director of legal advocacy and services for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, told Mother Jones

Last year, Wisconsin’s Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul filed a complaint that the 19th-century law conflicts with a newer law from the 1980s that permits abortion in the first and second trimesters.

In July, Dane County Circuit Judge Diane Schlipper ruled in Kaul’s favor and decided that the case could go forward. Schlipper said that Wisconsin’s 173-year-old abortion ban outlaws killing fetuses but doesn’t apply to consensual medical abortions. Her ruling gave Planned Parenthood Wisconsin (PPWI) the confidence to begin moving forward with resuming services. 

“We always maintained that 1849 law didn’t just sort of immediately come back to life and become enforceable against abortions again, but we knew that there was a real threat of folks attempting to enforce that law,” Velasquez said. “With a recognition that there was some uncertainty around that, we paused services, and we really committed to our communities and to patients and people in the state that we would resume services when we had a pathway to do so.”

Wisconsin pro-choice researchers and advocates point out that even if Kaul wins his lawsuit, access to full reproductive care in the state will go back the old status quo … clinics operating under an onerous list of restrictions—including 24-hour waiting periods, a telemedicine abortion ban, and a block on state Medicaid funding in almost all cases. “It’s not as if we reverse Dobbs, then we’re all going to be fine,” says Jenny Higgins, a reproductive health care researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The old normal, she adds, while better than the present, is “still not consistent with accessible abortion and reproductive autonomy.” 

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin’s decision will have ripple effects beyond the state’s borders. Neighboring Illinois has seen a stark increase in abortions following the fall of Roe, and pregnant people in Indiana have been forced to travel elsewhere in the region to access care.  

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