Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Board Considers Abortion Rights Proposal

After protests at his home, Sup. Rolland pushes resolution asking county lobbyists to advocate for state abortion law.

By - Sep 13th, 2022 11:14 am
Pro-choice rally at Red Arrow Park. Photo taken June 24, 2022 by Graham Kilmer.

Pro-choice rally at Red Arrow Park. Photo taken June 24, 2022 by Graham Kilmer.

The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors will consider a resolution calling upon the State of Wisconsin to protect access to abortions in the state.

Wisconsin has an 1849 law banning abortion that became law when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that established a right to abortion, though there is some confusion about this, as Gov. Tony Evers and state Attorney General Josh Kaul have filed a lawsuit against state legislative leaders — all Republicans — arguing the 1849 law cannot be enforced because of later, post-Roe state laws accommodating abortion that were passed.

But until that lawsuit is resolved, abortion clinics and healthcare systems across the state have stopped providing abortions. The 1849 abortion ban does not allow exceptions for victims of rape or incest, and its exception to protect the life of the mother requires two other physicians to consult on the case before the procedure can be provided, which can be particularly difficult in rural areas.

The county board resolution, authored by Supervisor Shawn Rolland calls on the state “to protect abortion care as the right to choose” and also authorizes the county’s lobbyists to communicate the demand to the governor, state policymakers and to support legislation to provide such protection. It also asks the lobbyists to request that the resolution become part of the Wisconsin Counties Association (WCA) legislative platform.

“I believe in choice, and so do people all across Wisconsin,” Rolland said to the board’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee  on Monday. He referenced the Marquette University Law School Poll that found a majority of Wisconsin residents support access to abortion.

Rolland caught heat for voting against a non-binding referendum proposed for the November election ballot in Milwaukee County that would have asked voters, “Should Wisconsin Statute 940.04, which bans abortion at any stage of pregnancy without exception for rape, incest, or health of the patient, be repealed to allow legal access to abortion care?” The proposal was defeated by the full county board in July. In August, a protest was held outside of Rolland’s house.

The results of the referendum would not have carried the weight of law, but served as gauge of public opinion among voters in the county. Rolland has repeatedly voted against resolutions that pull funding from the county’s contingency account, because the Office of the Comptroller has reported to the board that year-end projections for the budget assume those funds will be used to backfill a deficit. At the time he said he supported the right to abortion, but argued the referendum was a waste of money, “We know from repeated lived experience that Madison doesn’t care what we have to say, what our voters have to say.”

The group that picketed outside of Rolland’s home helped formulate the new resolution — which does not include a ballot referendum but authorizes county lobbyists to push for state legislation legalizing abortion — through discussions with Rolland, Clancy and Sup. Liz Sumner.

Sup. Ryan Clancy introduced an amendment at committee on Monday that did not affect the legislative intent of Rolland’s original resolution. Clancy said the amendment added “additional justifications primarily through equity intent and health lenses and provides additional legal context of the resolution brought to us through several actions and judgments throughout the country.” Clancy added that he hopes the resolution will not be viewed as a debate on abortion “which is not and should not be open to debate, but the strongest possible push to the state to get out of the way.”

The resolution with Clancy’s amendment failed to pass at committee. Sup. Steve Taylor voted against it and Sup. Kathleen Vincent abstained. Sup. Felesia Martin was not present at the meeting, and with only Clancy and Committee Chair Sequanna Taylor voting in favor, the result was a tie vote, so the amendment didn’t pass. (Rolland does not serve on the committee.)

Rolland’s original amendment was then moved to a vote by Clancy, who said he planned to reintroduce his amendment at the full board meeting, and it also failed to pass the committee on the same vote. It will go before the full board at the end of the month without a recommendation from committee.

Categories: MKE County, Politics, Weekly

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