WISCONSIN — Planned Parenthood resumed offering abortion services in Wisconsin on Monday after halting them for more than a year since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

What You Need To Know

  • Planned Parenthood has resumed offering abortions in Wisconsin at clinics in Madison and Milwaukee

  • The resumption of services on Monday is the first time abortions have been available in the state since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022

  • Providers across Wisconsin halted abortion services last year for fear that an 1849 state law appearing to outlaw the procedure would spring back into effect. But a judge last month ruled that the law doesn't apply to medical abortions

  • The lawsuit over the 1849 law is ongoing and expected to end in the state Supreme Court, which recently flipped to liberal control

Providers across the state stopped offering abortions following the June 2022 decision, fearing enforcement of an 1849 state law that appears to ban the procedure but had previously been nullified by the 1973 Roe ruling. A judge ruled last month that the 174-year-old law doesn't apply to consensual medical abortions.

"That was not a final ruling," Gwen Finnegan said, the volunteer director of Vigil for Life Madison. "There is no final ruling in the case.”

In light of the judge's ruling, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin began offering abortions at clinics in Madison and Milwaukee again on Monday. The group did not say how many abortions it expected to perform, but said appointments at its Milwaukee and Madison clinics were completely filled within 24 hours of announcing that services would resume.

Without access to abortion care in Wisconsin for the past 15 months, many patients have sought assistance in neighboring Illinois, where abortions have remained widely available. According to Planned Parenthood of Illinois, its clinics have seen a seven-fold increase in patients from Wisconsin since the Supreme Court overturned Roe.

Finnegan joined anti-abortion protesters outside Planned Parenthood's Madison clinic on Monday, as did Dan Miller. Miller is the director of Pro-Life Wisconsin. 

“This war will be won on our knees,” said Miller. “This is a spiritual battle. It is won in the hearts and the minds of the future generations, those that are contemplating abortion.”

Anti-abortion protesters also gathered outside the organization's Milwaukee clinic.

“I’ve been pregnant four times and I know how that baby feels in your womb," Isabel Patrick said, who is an anti-abortion activist. "I know as a woman, the connection you have with that baby and it’s beautiful." 

Spectrum News 1 saw two protesters on Monday — one at each clinic — who showed up in support of abortion rights.

"I believe abortion is healthcare and it’s a necessary service that’s being provided to women throughout the community," Brian of Milwaukee said. Brian chose not to give his last name for safety and privacy reasons. He protested outside Planned Parenthood's Milwaukee clinic in support of abortion rights. 

During the rally in Madison, Kim Gasper-Rabuck held up a sign that said “I am pro-choice.” She is an abortion-rights activist and said she made an effort to ensure her sign was in cameras’ views of the speakers. Throughout the demonstration, anti-abortion protesters tried to block her with their signs.

“I’ve been defending women and people who can become pregnant’s right to control their own bodies for 40 years since I had my own abortion, which was life-saving," Gasper-Rabuck said, who protested outside Planned Parenthood's Madison clinic. 

Women's Medical Fund of Wisconsin, which offers financial assistance for abortion procedures and related costs, helped 477 patients from Wisconsin obtain abortions outside the state in the first six months of 2023, according to board president Cynthia Lin. Most of those appointments were in Minnesota or Illinois, she said.

“There’s a lot of work still to do, even within the return of legal abortion care in Wisconsin,” Lin said on Monday, pointing to the long distances many patients still have to travel to reach clinics in Madison or Milwaukee. Lin also highlighted barriers created by state laws that require people seeking an abortion in Wisconsin to have an ultrasound and a counseling appointment before waiting 24 hours for the procedure.

The lawsuit challenging Wisconsin's 1849 law was brought by the state's Democratic attorney general and is expected to end up in front of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which flipped to liberal control last month. Planned Parenthood's president and CEO, Tanya Atkinson, said she is confident the organization is acting legally in making this decision.

"We are very confident that the judge has made it crystal clear that the statute in question, the 1849 law, does not apply to voluntary abortions so, we could not be more confident in our decision," Atkinson said.

Democrats, including Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, praised the resumption of abortion services. Meanwhile, anti-abortion rights groups in the state condemned the move and promised to continue fighting in court for the procedure to be outlawed.

Read Kaul's lawsuit below: 

6.28.22 Criminal Abortion Ban Complaint by Aly Prouty on Scribd