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If Roe is overturned, an old Wisconsin law could bar performing some abortions

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – The effects of a landmark abortion case, set to be heard in the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday, could reach all parts of the country, including Wisconsin.

Justices will be hearing arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which centers around a law in Mississippi that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

A potential outcome is that Mississippi’s law is upheld and Roe v. Wade, which gave the constitutional right to abortions, is challenged.

“The Supreme Court is hearing a case that could ultimately change the world as we know it when it comes to the abortion restrictions,” Heather Weininger, executive director of the Wisconsin Right to Life, said.

Abortion laws could also fall back to the power of the state. In Wisconsin, a law dating back to 1849 could be reinstated, criminalizing doctors who perform abortions.

“It’s at the state level that these issues matter the most, and Wisconsin is already such a restrictive environment for abortion, so we’re quite concerned about potential impact of these lawsuits on our state,” Jenny Higgins, UW-Madison professor and director of the UW CORE (Collaborative for Reproductive Equity), said.

Higgins also foresees potential changes to Wisconsin’s legislation if the Supreme Court upholds the Mississippi law.

“Right now we have a ban at 20 weeks gestation,” she explained, “but there could be an effort to move that earlier, which would lower abortion access for many Wisconsinites.”

Higgins is among a group of more than a hundred social scientists who signed onto a brief for the court to consider. Experts argued about “detrimental short and long-term effects” to women and their families if justices side with Mississippi’s abortion ban.

For local impact, Higgins cited local research, a survey of all clinical faculty at the UW School of Medicine. She said, “Over 90 percent of physicians said that women’s healthcare in Wisconsin would get worse if Roe v. Wade is overturned.”

Meanwhile, some, like Weininger, hope that states will be the deciding voice in abortion law.

“I’m a mom to four, so this is actually the world I want to live in,” she said. “I want my kids to understand a world where abortion is not healthcare, it’s not needed, and it’s not the answer to women who find themselves in an unplanned pregnancy.”

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