Wisconsin Court Rules That Pro-Life Law Doesn’t Apply to Abortion

The abortion giant Planned Parenthood announced that it would be resuming operations at one of its facilities in the eastern city of Sheboygan because of the ruling.

High definition ultrasound taken in 2021.
High definition ultrasound taken in 2021. (photo: Shutterstock)

A Wisconsin circuit court judge has affirmed her earlier ruling that an 1840s law protecting unborn children does not outlaw abortion.

Dane County Circuit Court Judge Diane Schlipper wrote in her Dec. 5 ruling that the 1849 law “does not apply to consensual abortions but to feticide.”

The statute in question says that “any person, other than the mother, who intentionally destroys the life of an unborn child is guilty of a Class H felony.” After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the law was reactivated but has since been enmeshed in legal challenges.

“The court declares Wis. Stat. § 940.04 does not prohibit abortions,” Schlipper wrote.

The abortion giant Planned Parenthood announced that it would be resuming operations at one of its facilities in the eastern city of Sheboygan because of the ruling.

After a pause in operations after the fall of Roe, Planned Parenthood had resumed abortions at its Milwaukee and Madison locations in September following Schlipper’s July ruling that the statute “does not prohibit a consensual medical abortion.”

Heather Weininger, executive director at Wisconsin Right to Life, denounced the ruling, calling it “disappointing for all Wisconsinites.”

“A law that was enforced before the flawed decision of Roe is now one that pro-choice activists on the court are willing to use as a tool for their cause,” she said. “Instead of providing true support for women and families in this post-Dobbs landscape, they are putting lives on the line.”

The defendant in the case, Sheboygan County District Attorney Joel Urmanski, said he plans to appeal the court’s decision. 

Following the overturning of Roe last year, Urmanski told a local outlet that he would prosecute illegal abortions under the law, which triggered the lawsuit against him and others. 

“If there is a violation, we will enforce the law,” he said at the time. “It’s a law that’s on the books through legislative action. You are seeing other states passing laws or enforcing laws to address this issue. If there’s a higher court that says there’s a problem with the statute, then we’ll follow that.”

In a statement shared with CNA Thursday, Urmanski said: “As I have previously stated, I believe that, properly interpreted, the statute at issue prohibits performing abortions (including consensual abortions) unless the exception for abortions necessary to save the life of the mother applies.”

Urmanski said he would comply with the Dane County Circuit Court’s ruling unless the decision is stayed or reversed.

“To be clear, I disagree with and intend to appeal the decision. 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,” he said.

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