FFRF, based in Madison, Wis., is calling on the Wisconsin Legislature to finally overturn the state’s archaic 170-year-old statute criminalizing abortion.
The 1849 law could go into immediate effect should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade or if it decides to throw the decision-making on abortion rights to state legislatures.
In November, FFRF placed a month-long message on a 12-by-25-foot billboard in Madison about five blocks from the Wisconsin Capitol. The dramatic billboard bears a Handmaid’s Tale-esque likeness of a woman holding a “Help” sign, drawn by Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Steve Benson. The billboard urges, “Don’t let it happen here.” It adds: “Pass Wisconsin’s Abortion Access Protection Act now.”
State Rep. Lisa Subeck and state Sen. Fred Risser have introduced this act in the Legislature, but no further action has been taken on it so far. Wisconsin physicians who perform abortions would go to prison for up to six years under the criminal statute. At least eight other states have retained recklessly outdated statutes on the books also criminalizing abortion.
With the addition of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, replacing the pro-choice swing voter Justice Anthony Kennedy, anti-abortion legislatures are rushing to pass as many restrictions as possible to overturn Roe v. Wade. This year alone, eight states have passed bans based on gestational age (often before the pregnancy has been detected), and Alabama has passed an outright ban. State legislators in Tennessee, Pennsylvania and South Carolina are currently advancing bans on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.
FFRF says that it’s long overdue for Wisconsin citizens to demand the immediate repeal of Wisconsin’s shameful criminal abortion law. The only opposition to abortion rights is religious in nature, FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor points out, which makes “abortion a state/church issue.”
FFRF started in Madison in the late 1970s, after the experience of FFRF’s principal founder, Anne Nicol Gaylor, in crusading for abortion and contraceptive rights, which opened the eyes of the mother/daughter duo to the dangers of religious control of government.
“We realized that the battle for women’s rights would never end, unless we got at the root cause of the denial of those rights — which is the unwarranted influence of religion over our laws and social policy,” says Gaylor.