Abortions resume in Wisconsin after being halted for more than a year

Planned Parenthood has resumed providing abortions in Wisconsin after making the “agonising decision” to halt the procedures in the wake of Roe v Wade being overturned.

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin CEO Tanya Atkinson announced services would be available in Madison and Milwaukee from Monday, 18 September after a recent court ruling that an “archaic” 1849 state law criminalising the procedure was not enforceable for voluntary abortions.

Appointments at the Milwaukee clinic for its reopening on Monday had filled within 24 hours of the announcement, the group said.

“When Roe was overturned, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin made the agonising decision to suspend abortion services in order to protect the physicians and staff who care for patients in communities… from the threat of being prosecuted under an archaic Wisconsin law criminalising abortion care,” Ms Atkinson said in a video statement posted to social media.

The Supreme Court’s decision to end constitutionally protected abortion care in June 2022 was “devastating for Wisconsin women, and people across the gender spectrum”, she continued.

With the threat of prosecution under the law, abortion services in Wisconsin were suspended, forcing women to travel to neighboring Illinois to seek care.

Clinics in Illinois experienced a seven-fold increase in demand from Wisconsin-based patients, according to Planned Parenthood of Illinois.

Women’s Medical Fund of Wisconsin board president Cynthia Lin told the Associated Press that patients still faced long journeys to reach clinics in Milwaukee and Madison.

“There’s a lot of work still to do, even within the return of legal abortion care in Wisconsin,” she said.

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The resumption came after three Wisconsin physicians launched a lawsuit challenging the 1849 law which is still working its way through state court.

Protesters are seen in the Wisconsin Capitol Rotunda during a march supporting overturning Wisconsin’s near total ban on abortions in January 2023

(Associated Press)

In July, a Dane County Circuit Court judge rejected an attempt to dismiss the suit and ruled that the 1849 law did not cover consensual abortion.

A final decision is likely to end up before the state supreme court, which recently gained a liberal majority for the first time in decades.

Planned Parenthood said it restarted abortion services after consulting with attorneys and physicians that it was legally safe to do so.

The reopening of clinics has been praised by governor Tony Evers, who called it “critically important” for Wisconsin women.

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