Most of us know that the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade made abortion illegal in Wisconsin, effective immediately. But there is a lot of confusion about what exactly that means. That’s understandable given that the law which outlaws abortion in our state was written in 1849. The fact that each state in the union will now have their own laws regarding abortion muddies the water even more. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok have been full of memes, streams, lives, and reels on the topic. Scrolling for 10 minutes can leave your head spinning!
As a person whose entire personal and professional life is tied to celebrating and protecting bodily autonomy, I’ve been doing all I can to support this movement until Wisconsin makes abortion legal again. I’ve marched, called legislators, and donated to abortion access orgs (POWERS, Women’s Medical Fund, and Planned Parenthood. Today, my contribution to the cause is to clear up some of the confusion surrounding our law. I’ve gotten so many questions from friends, loved ones, readers, and clients. Here are a few of the most common ones.
Q: Can I be arrested for having an abortion?
A: No. Wisconsin law targets abortion providers, not pregnant people. The law reads, “Any person, other than the mother, who intentionally destroys the life of an unborn child is guilty of a Class H felony.” If a provider is convicted, they could be fined up to $10,000 and sentenced to six years in prison. But this only applies to abortion providers, not to pregnant people. If a person obtains or self-administers an abortion, they can not be charged with any crime. Some states are testing the waters to see if they can go after people who have abortions, but Wisconsin is not currently one of them.
Q: On TikTok, I saw Governor Evers say that he’ll grant clemency to any abortion provider who’s arrested. I was pretty excited and thought maybe it meant that abortion clinics can still operate in Wisconsin. But now I guess I really don’t know what it means?
A: I wasn’t sure what it meant either, exactly, so I reached out to Michelle Velazquez, the Director of Legal Advocacy and Services for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin. She explained: “The governor’s promise of a pardon is not a path to provide abortion care in Wisconsin, even in the short-term. Under the current requirements, a person can request a pardon when they have been convicted, sentenced, and at least five years have passed since the completion of their sentence. Each abortion performed would need a pardon for the provider, and potentially all other staff who facilitated the appointment in Wisconsin.”
Q: Can I go to another state for an abortion?
A: Yes. According to Michelle Velazquez: “There is currently no law in Wisconsin that would make traveling to another state for an abortion illegal.” Abortion is still legal in Minnesota and Illinois, and those two states have been gearing up for influx of folks who will be traveling for this purpose. The abortion access organizations I mentioned above can help you navigate this.
Q: If a friend drives me to a legal state like Minnesota, can they get in trouble? Or if my abortion is paid for by an abortion fund, will the abortion fund be liable for anything?
A: No to both questions. The scope of our law is limited to abortion providers and does not apply to the person seeking the abortion or anyone who helps them out with driving to another state or paying for the procedure.
Q: Is there any direct way to restore abortion access in Wisconsin?
A: This was another question for Michelle Velazquez. She told me that the easiest and most straightforward way is for the legislature to repeal our current law. In order to make that happen, we have to put a lot of pressure on our state legislators. If you don’t know who represents you in state assembly or the state senate, you can use the look-up tool on this page. This will pull up the name, phone number, and email address of your representatives. Call or email and let them know that you’re a constituent and you want abortion access restored in Wisconsin. You don’t have to speak to them directly. Leaving a message or sending a brief email is just fine!
As I mentioned before, I’ve spent a lot of time marching in the last few weeks. When we march, we chant. And the chant that always brings me the most hope is “Stand up! Fight back!” It’s time to do just that. Not everyone can be in the streets, and that’s okay. Pick something you can do: make a donation, make phone calls, send emails, talk to folks about abortion (and say the word abortion), or contact one of the orgs above to volunteer. This isn’t going to be a short fight. We need each person who’s willing to join us.
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