The Choice is Ours: 1849 or 2022?

Just a few weeks ago we celebrated the new year, looking forward to 2022. But if some politicians get their way, we could be headed back to 1849.

You see, in 1849, Wisconsin enacted a criminal abortion ban, making abortion illegal even in cases of rape or incest, and threatening doctors and medical professionals who provide or facilitate abortions with felonies.

This statute has not been enforceable since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled abortion was legal in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, but it was never repealed and remains on the books.

That means that if the Republican installed majority on the Supreme Court stays on its track to do away with Roe v. Wade this year, the criminal abortion ban would likely go back into effect.

Here in Wisconsin some politicians, like Rebecca Kleefisch, are eager to impose their personal beliefs where they have no business, in our personal, family health care decisions. She has said she wants a dangerous six week ban on on abortion in Wisconsin, despite the fact that most people don’t even know they’re pregnant at six weeks.

The bottom line is this: right now a court case from 1973 is the only thing standing between 2022 and a 173-year backslide in Wisconsin’s healthcare system.

Our freedom to make personal health and medical decisions ourselves is in jeopardy. Local clinics, vital to communities across Wisconsin, could be forced to preemptively close their doors for good, barring thousands of citizens from access to essential medical care.

While the protections of our healthcare freedom under the Roe decision are in peril, there are progressive leaders in Wisconsin who are stepping up on our behalf.

Earlier this week in advance of the January 22 anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul joined Democratic members of the state legislature and introduced the Abortion Rights Preservation Act, to reaffirm support for our friends and family members’ ability to decide if or when they become a parent and to protect abortion access in Wisconsin.

Gov. Evers also promised to continue to protect Wisconsinites’ reproductive freedom and veto any anti-choice bills that come across his desk, reminding us that there’s still hope Wisconsin can leave 1849 where it belongs: in the past.

In Washington D.C. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, along with House Representatives Gwen Moore, Mark Pocan and Ron Kind, are sponsoring the Women’s Health Protection Act, federal legislation to guarantee equal access to abortion, everywhere across the country.

By punishing not only those who are in critical need of reproductive healthcare, but also the medical professionals giving them a safe choice, the leaders and politicians against Roe v. Wade are telling Wisconsinites one thing: your body, their choice.

The choice today is ours, do we want to make our own healthcare decisions or do we want our freedom to be taken away by a law passed by legislators in 1849? We can respond by telling Wisconsin lawmakers to pass the state Abortion Rights Preservation Act.

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A Better Wisconsin Together is a state-based research and communications hub for progressives.