While abortion providers stopped performing abortions in Wisconsin following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, questions remain as to whether it is legal to access abortion pills through the mail in the state.
Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Wisconsin restricted access to two U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs that are used to induce abortions: misoprosotol and mifepristone.
“While other states allowed these drugs to be obtained by mail, Wisconsin required steps, such as an in-person examination by a doctor and in-person administration of the drug,” said Miriam Seifter, associate law professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School. .
The United States Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade brought Wisconsin’s 19th-century abortion ban to the fore. Seifter said the applicability of this ban is unclear since the state has followed a different set of laws over the past few decades that regulated abortion, but did not ban it.
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul has filed a lawsuit led by Governor Tony Evers, arguing that newer laws supersede the state’s abortion ban.
“The AG Kaul lawsuit filed on June 28 seeks clarity from the court that Wisconsin’s 19th century abortion ban is not in effect,” said Justice Department spokeswoman Samantha Standley. of Wisconsin.
If the ban were enforced, it would apply to medical abortion. Even so, Seifter said it would still be legal for people to receive abortion pills in the mail under state law.
“There might be a liability for a shipper, but not for the woman looking for the pills,” Seifter said. “And that’s based on an express exception in the law.”
Doctors could be charged with a felony for providing abortion-inducing drugs through the mail. However, Seifter said it would be legal for a doctor to prescribe and administer abortion pills when necessary to save the life of the person giving birth. She said it was also legal for doctors to use abortion pills to manage the treatment of miscarriages.
Seifter said doctors are in a situation where they are likely to change the care they provide due to uncertainty about what is considered legal.
Jenny Higgins, professor and director of the Collaborative for Reproductive Equity at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, noted that abortion pills are available for people to order online. She said research shows people are using Plan C and Aid Access to order pills for self-managed abortions.
Although the recipients of the pills will not face criminal charges, Higgins said they expect lawmakers to feel emboldened to pass new legislation that would hold pregnant women accountable.
“While at this time I think our information suggests that people could manage their own abortions without criminal reprisal in Wisconsin, we expect more legal efforts in this direction to criminalize these people in the future” , said Higgins.
Seifter said making pregnant people criminally liable for seeking abortions has been unpopular to this day and not part of state abortion laws.
“But, in this legal landscape, it’s not an impossible consideration,” Seifter said.
Meanwhile, Kaul said he will not enforce the state’s abortion ban, though local prosecutors have said they will prosecute providers who violate the abortion ban. State. Seifter said it would be difficult to monitor and enforce what goes through the mail, adding that vendors are unlikely to expose themselves to liability.