Abortion

The future of abortion is on the Supreme Court ballot in Wisconsin

A look at Wisconsin's highly competitive election to replace a retiring justice on the state Supreme Court.

The future of abortion is on the Supreme Court ballot in Wisconsin
Morry Gash / AP
SMS

A lot has changed in the last year or so regarding abortion in the U.S. following the Supreme Court's historic overturn of Roe v. Wade. In many conservative states, new abortion restrictions have taken effect.

In many liberal-leaning states, access is a bit easier.

But there have been political impacts too. Elections and races that you may have never paid attention to are suddenly very important.

And nowhere in the country is that more on display this week than in the state of Wisconsin, where Tuesday, April 4, a not-so-typical spring election is taking place, in which the future of abortion access in the state could be decided.

In Wisconsin, voters elect the seven justices on the state Supreme Court. Right now, conservatives hold a 4-3 majority. Last year, the court backed a law from 1849 banning abortion. But, now, one of the conservative justices is retiring.

That makes control of the court up for grabs.

Idaho passes bill to criminalize helping minors have an abortion
Idaho passes bill to criminalize helping minors have an abortion

Idaho passes bill to criminalize helping minors have an abortion

If the bill is signed into law, a person who helps a minor obtain an abortion without parental consent could face up to five years in prison.

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If a liberal-leaning justice wins, abortion access could be restored. If a conservative wins, existing abortion bans would likely stay.

Charles Benson of Scripps News Milwaukee has been covering politics in Wisconsin for decades.

"Wisconsin has never had a Supreme Court race like this. Period, Full stop," Benson said. 

Benson says that though technically this race is non-partisan, Democrats and Republicans have spent millions informing voters that Janet Protasiewicz is the liberal-leaning candidate and that Dan Kelly is conservative-leaning.

"The money has been massive, we are talking $30 million and counting," Protasiewicz said. 

That amount represents a national record. Figures like this are approaching what we see in governor and Senate races in some states.

If you don't live in Wisconsin, there are still lessons you can learn from this week's election. For one, the results will be the latest gauge of how Americans feel about reproductive rights.

The other lesson? Expect contests for judges and justices in your state to get even more political. This especially applies to all states in which voters elect their supreme court justices. Other states rely on governors and legislatures to make the initial appointments. 

Wisconsin voter Barbara Lee perhaps feels like you do.

"It's just ridiculous how partisan everything has become," Lee said.