One weekend in late March, McKenzie Schroeder offered to drive her friend across the border from Wisconsin to Illinois for an abortion. Abortion has been illegal in Wisconsin since June, when the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, reviving. state 1849 near the top of the abortion.
“If you’ve never been in that situation, you can never know how a woman feels if you’re pregnant and you don’t know what to do,” said Schroeder, 30, who lives in Sun Prairie and works at a property management company and as a waitress. “I do not think that any man on the face of the earth can control what I do with my body.”
Wisconsin’s abortion law has divided voters in the state, which last week could pave the way to repealing the ban entirely in the next 2023 election.
The case is pending on April 4th before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which will ultimately decide the fate of the 1849 ban (the challenge is already working its way through the state courts). The seven-member Supreme Court will likely hear cases over voter fraud before the 2024 election in Wisconsin, a key presidential battle. The outcome of the election may determine whether Wisconsin’s state legislative districts remain for another decade or are replaced. The Republicans are swinging the lines and districts so heavily in their favor that it is impossible for the Democrats to ever get the legislation passed.
That perfect storm of questions led to the project’s total cost – about $30m – to be diluted. Daniel Kelly, a conservative, and Janet Protasiewicz, a liberal, are running against retiring conservative justice Patience Roggensack. Conservatives have a 4-3 majority in the state legislature, so whoever wins the race will determine the bench’s control.
In the early days of early voting, which began on March 21, people marched in protest against abortion and voting rights as well as fair elections and key concerns on election day. Voters also listed crime, a subject that dominated political ads, as a top concern. The homicide rate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s largest city, rose by 11% in 2022 from the previous year, but with overall violent crime and other serious offenses dropping by 7%.
“My number one is abortion,” said Pauline Tanem, a retired worker in Oak Creek. Concerns about democracy and voting rights also informed his support for Protasiewicz. She says she is motivated to “vote whatever, and not end the vote,” noting that early voting in her poll closed at 5 p.m. “People usually work until five.”
Barry Burden, a political science professor who closely follows races in Wisconsin and directs the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said voters seem to be most interested in a handful of issues.
“Abortion is a dominant issue,” he said. “And it was not long after that he was reduced and brought to others. Everything else is far down the list. “
In an interview with the Guardian, Protasiewicz pointed to abortion as the definitive cause of the election, but refrained from making that the most important call. He worked hard in support of a woman’s right to choose, although he said he would legalize abortion.
“I think people are very interested in whether they have the right to make reproductive health choices,” he said. “I would say ‘serious’ is a reference to abortion, but it’s certainly an issue for people.”
During the race, Kelly refrained from expressing her views on abortion rights, although in a post-deleted blog after the election she referred to organizations and politicians promoting “sexual libertarianism.” It was endorsed by an anti-abortion group in Wisconsin. (Kelly’s expedition did not respond to an interview request).
Political advertising has saturated the airwaves. Protasiewicz raised a staggering $10m, while both were supported by significant outside giving. The anti-abortion group Susan B Anthony has announced Spending $2m in the race in support of Kelly, while the advocacy arm of Planned Parenthood contributed at least $1m in support of Protasiewicz.
“Political ads, I think, are a necessary evil,” said Steve Scheuer, an insurance adjuster from Oconomowoc, a heavily Republican city in Waukesha County. “I think there’s a lot of money spent that’s wasted.” Scheuer and his wife, Heather, who works as a librarian at a local Lutheran church, said they were persuaded by television shows and abortion shows to support Kelly’s cause.
“We are against abortion,” said Heather Scheuer, who said the issue is a long-standing concern and closely tied to her religious beliefs. “Man they are in concept. This is what we believe in 100%.”
Omar Ward, a 26-year-old petitioner with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), said voting rights are of utmost importance to him. Pupil, who is from Milwaukee, had his voting rights restored after four years, when the state struck a felony off the record in 2022. He cast the first ballot, which was then in the Supreme Court primary in February.
When he visited Milwaukee and Racine, Ward said he heard more about abortion rights and crimes than other issues. “No one feels like everyone should go to Chicago to make a judgment about their body and their health,” he said. “And on both sides (Democratic or Republican) everybody wants to bring down crime.
The only debate between the candidates, which will be televised on March 22, is between Kelly and Protasiewicz to run together often about abortion and health – while Kelly castigated his opponent for soft crime.
Protasiewicz told the Guardian that he wanted to push back against that characterization because he had “done this all my life, you know, to have a reason.”