SHEBOYGAN – While no legal challenges have prevented Planned Parenthood from resuming its abortion services in Milwaukee and Dane Counties, as the organization announced on September 14, 2023, the latest endeavor for the organization could face a thornier path.
A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin confirmed to WTMJ that they are working on resuming abortion services at their clinic in Sheboygan County, as well. The Taylor Dr. clinic has remained open since the Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court decision in 2022 that overturned Roe v. Wade, providing family planning services.
The main reason the clinic in Sheboygan County has not joined its counterparts in resuming services is due to staffing issues, Planned Parenthood said.
The other major difference in this case is that Sheboygan County District Attorney Joel Urmanski has publicly stated he will enforce Wisconsin’s current 1849 abortion ban by prosecuting doctors who perform abortions in his jurisdiction. This is in contrast to Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, who have said they will not prosecute abortion providers even before Planned Parenthood resumed its services.
That 1849 law is the center of the major legal question at the heart of the current debate on abortion in Wisconsin: while it remains on the books, is it enforceable?
Planned Parenthood said it is not enforceable in its announcement that services would resume. Wisconsin Family Action president Julaine Appling tells WTMJ her organization believes the opposite.
“No judge has issued an injunction against the enforcement of the law. No judge has issued a definitive opinion that the law is not enforceable,” Appling said. “And certainly the legislature has not taken any steps to revoke the pertinent statute.”
Appling and Wisconsin Family Action joined Wisconsin Right to Life and Pro-Life Wisconsin in Madison on September 26 at a press conference calling on the Dane and Milwaukee County D.A.’s to prosecute the providers currently performing abortions. Appling said she believes by not doing so, they’re violating their oaths of office.
“Now that Planned Parenthood has illegally resumed abortions, it is time for them to actually do the right thing and enforce the law and bring charges against those who are doing these abortions illegally in their jurisdictions,” she said.
For now, both sides of the battle are in a holding pattern. Appling said her organization and it’s allies are considering all options. Urmanski’s office has nobody to prosecute until Planned Parenthood resumes services in their jurisdiction, and Planned Parenthood continues to assert their legal position, but hasn’t faced a test of it yet.
“If they take the next step and open the facility there in Sheboygan then they’re still in the same situation of doing so illegally but it will be a very different situation as we wait to see what the D.A. does there,” Appling said.
The legal battle is expected to go all the way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, where Urmanski is named as a defendant in Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul’s lawsuit challenging the 1849 law – but it could come to a head first not in Madison, but in Sheboygan.
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