Planned Parenthood said on Thursday it would resume providing abortions in Wisconsin, where the procedure has been largely unavailable since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade more than a year ago.
The decision to restart services is a victory for abortion-rights groups in the state, where the issue has reshaped politics and defined a State Supreme Court election.
Wisconsin had an abortion ban from 1849 that was still on the books, but it had been unenforceable since Roe v. Wade made abortion legal nationwide in 1973. Josh Kaul, the state attorney general and a Democrat, sued to overturn the law days after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2022.
The announcement from Planned Parenthood came after a judge in Dane County, which includes Madison, issued a preliminary ruling in July saying that she did not believe the 1849 law made abortion illegal. “There is no such thing as an ‘1849 abortion ban’ in Wisconsin,” she wrote. The judge’s final ruling is expected in the coming weeks. The dispute is likely to be decided by a higher court.
Beginning on Monday, patients can receive abortions at Planned Parenthood clinics in Madison and Milwaukee, the organization said.
“With the recent confirmation from the court that there is not an enforceable abortion ban in Wisconsin, our staff can now provide the full scope of sexual and reproductive health care to anyone in Wisconsin who needs it, no matter what,” Tanya Atkinson, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, said in a statement.
Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin, also a Democrat, called the announcement “critically important news for Wisconsin women.”
“Our fight to restore the same reproductive rights and freedoms Wisconsinites had up until the day the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe must continue,” Mr. Evers said.
Opponents of abortion denounced the decision.
“This is a devastating day for preborn children and women facing unexpected pregnancies in Wisconsin,” Gracie Skogman, the legislative director for Wisconsin Right to Life, said in a statement. “Planned Parenthood is once again showing that they value profit over the lives of vulnerable women and children.”
For the last year, many women in Wisconsin who were seeking abortions traveled over state lines into Illinois, frequently to a clinic in Waukegan, Ill., a city only miles from the border with Wisconsin. Planned Parenthood of Illinois saw a 600 percent increase in patients from Wisconsin since Roe was overturned, the organization said.
Wisconsin, a critical swing state in the 2024 presidential contest, is in the midst of deep, ongoing political clashes over abortion, redistricting and elections.
In April, voters elected Janet Protasiewicz, a liberal candidate, to the State Supreme Court. She made her support of abortion rights clear, and won the seat by 11 percentage points that gave the court a new 4-to-3 liberal majority.
But Republicans in the State Legislature have threatened to impeach Justice Protasiewicz before she can rule on any case, hoping to block her from voting in favor of abortion rights and help toss out heavily gerrymandered legislative maps that favor Republicans.
On Thursday, Republicans, who hold a majority in the State Senate, voted to fire Meagan Wolfe, the state’s nonpartisan head of elections. Ms. Wolfe, the Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator since 2018, has been targeted by conservatives who say she is responsible for a lack of confidence in elections, though a 14-month investigation into the state results of the 2020 election found no evidence of significant fraud.
A legal battle over Ms. Wolfe’s firing is expected to follow.