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Chief justice asks for investigation after leak of draft in Wisconsin abortion case

Document indicates high court will hear Planned Parenthood lawsuit

Conservative Chief Justice Annette Ziegler
Conservative Chief Justice Annette Ziegler has tried to put the brakes on the Supreme Court liberal majority’s new administrative rules, which have blocked her authority. She is seen in the Wisconsin Supreme Court Hearing Room in Madison, Wis., on Dec. 1, 2022. Coburn Dukehart/Wisconsin Watch

The chief justice of Wisconsin’s Supreme Court says she’s asking law enforcement to investigate following the leak of a draft order in a high-profile case over the status of abortion in Wisconsin.

That leaked document indicates the state Supreme Court will eventually hear a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, according to reporting from Wisconsin Watch.

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin filed a petition in February, about six months after the high court flipped to a 4-3 liberal majority, asking the court to take up its case directly. Planned Parenthood is asking the court find that Wisconsin’s Constitution protects a right to abortion.

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In a statement Wednesday, Chief Justice Annette Ziegler, a conservative, says the entire court was shocked by the leak of a confidential document.

“We are all united behind this investigation to identify the source of the apparent leak,” Ziegler said in a statement. “The seven of us condemn this breach.”

Clinics across Wisconsin stopped performing abortions, except those done to save a pregnant person’s life, in June of 2022, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a national right to abortion.

Providers were concerned about being prosecuted under a 19th century state law, which makes it a felony for “any person other than the mother” to “intentionally destroy the life of an unborn child.”

But last year, in response to a lawsuit from Wisconsin’s Democratic attorney general, a Dane County judge ruled that the law actually bans feticide, or attacking someone and destroying their pregnancy. The law does not ban abortions if they’re done with a pregnant person’s consent, the lower court judge concluded.

As a result, since last fall, Planned Parenthood has once again been offering abortions at several Wisconsin clinics. The group says abortions are currently legal in Wisconsin until 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Planned Parenthood’s decision to resume abortions has been criticized by anti-abortion advocates, who have argued that abortions remain illegal in the absence of a more definitive ruling.