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Planned Parenthood to resume abortion services in Sheboygan

Decision follows December court ruling that 1849 law does not bar consensual abortion

A protester's yellow sign reads "Reproductive rights are human rights."
Protester Jennie Klecker participates in a march for abortion rights Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023, in Madison, Wis. “Theres nothing more important right now for my kids,” she said. Angela Major/WPR

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin will resume abortion services at its Sheboygan Clinic this week. The decision follows a Dane County judge’s ruling earlier this month that a pre-Civil War state law does not preclude abortion.

The organization issued a statement saying it will reopen abortion services at its Sheboygan Health Center on Thursday.

“Abortion is healthcare, and we are eager to resume providing this essential care at our Sheboygan Health Center,” stated Dr. Allie Linton, Planned Parenthood’s chief medical officer. “Patients who walk through our doors can again know they will receive the comprehensive, high quality, nonjudgmental, and confidential reproductive care they deserve.”

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Planned Parenthood and other health care organizations stopped providing elective abortions in Wisconsin in June 2022 after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Providers were concerned they could be criminally charged under the 1849 law that states “any person, other than the mother, who intentionally destroys the life of an unborn child” was committing a felony.

Wisconsin’s Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the law, saying it was superseded by more recent abortion laws in the state.

On Dec. 5, Circuit Court Judge Diane Schlipper ruled the pre-Civil War state law bans feticide — when someone attacks a pregnant person and destroys the pregnancy — rather than abortions done with a pregnant person’s consent.

Schlipper had issued an earlier ruling that foreshadowed that decision. Planned Parenthood had resumed providing abortions at clinics in Madison and Milwaukee after that earlier ruling in September.

READ MORE: How We Got Here: Abortion in Wisconsin since 1849

But in Sheboygan County, District Attorney Joel Urmanski, a Republican, was challenging Kaul’s lawsuit, and Planned Parenthood awaited a final ruling before reopening the clinic there.

Following Schlipper‘s ruling, Urmanski issued a statement saying he planned to appeal.

But Urmanski also said he would follow Schlipper’s order, meaning he doesn’t plan to use the 19th century law to prosecute providers of abortions done with a pregnant person’s consent.

“I am obligated to comply with that ruling unless the decision is stayed pending appeal or ultimately reversed,” the statement said. “In my view, the statute plainly applies to abortions and, while it may be that the citizens of the State of Wisconsin would be better served by a different statute, I do not believe it is my job or the role of the courts to make that determination. It is an issue for the Legislature and the Governor to resolve.”

Because of Urmanski’s earlier statement, Matt Sande, legislative director for Pro-Life Wisconsin, said the announcement from Planned Parenthood on Monday is unsurprising. He said it’s unclear if resuming services in Sheboygan will have any impact on the timeline for an appeal.

“We know (Urmanski is) taking this seriously and that hopefully we do have a prompt appeal,” Sande said. “Hopefully, we would have a stay on Judge Schlipper’s ruling. If not, we will just continue to be there for women on the sidewalks at all the Planned Parenthood’s in Wisconsin, Madison, Milwaukee and Sheboygan.”

According to Planned Parenthood’s statement, the Sheboygan clinic will begin booking appointments for abortion patients beginning Monday. The clinic has remained open to provide family planning and reproductive health care while abortion services were suspended.