NARAL Pro-Choice America endorses Protasiewicz in Wisconsin Supreme Court election


The national group is the latest reproductive rights organization to throw its support behind the liberal candidate in this year's high-profile election.

One of the nation's largest abortion rights groups stepped into this spring's Wisconsin Supreme Court election on Monday morning to endorse Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz.

NARAL Pro-Choice America, founded in the late 1960s to combat restrictive anti-abortion laws at the state and national level, fights for access to abortion and reproductive health care and works to elect pro-abortion rights candidates to office.

"Across the country, we are seeing unprecedented judicial attacks on reproductive freedom, largely orchestrated by anti-choice extremist judges given power by politicians who want to attack our rights, freedoms, and even our democracy," the organization's president, Mini Timmaraju, said in a statement accompanying the endorsement. "Wisconsin voters have a powerful opportunity to fight back and vote for a champion for reproductive freedom."

The race is considered an essential one for abortion rights. If Protasiewicz wins the seat left open by conservative Justice Patience Roggensack's retirement, liberals would take control of a court on which they haven't held the majority since 2008.

Cases likely to come before the court include the legality of the state's 1849 abortion law, which bans the procedure in all cases unless the pregnant person's life is at stake.

Wisconsin Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul filed a lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court last year challenging the ban. Wisconsin Public Radio reported that the case would eventually come before the state Supreme Court.

While Protasiewicz hasn't explicitly said how she would rule, her campaign has been running ads declaring her support for reproductive freedom.

Without judicial action, the statute is unlikely to fall any time soon; other than the state's highest court striking the ban down, the only other option would be repealing and replacing the law in the state Legislature. Despite the popularity of replacement among Wisconsinites — polling shows that 72% say the law should be replaced with newer legislation, though they disagree on what it should be replaced with — Republican leaders in the Legislature have expressed no interest in repealing the law.

NARAL Pro-Choice America isn't the only national group to take an interest in the race.

EMILY's List, which works to elect pro-choice women to office, and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin have endorsed Protasiewicz.

Wisconsin's three leading anti-abortion groups — Wisconsin Right to Life, Pro-Life Wisconsin, and Wisconsin Family Action — have endorsed Protasiewicz's opponent, conservative former Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly. Although Kelly hasn't expressed his views on abortion during his campaign, he has worked with prominent anti-abortion groups in the past and has previously criticized the ethics of the procedure.

The race is the latest in a series of elections that have been largely defined by the newfound political salience of abortion rights at the state level after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization in 2022 ended the national constitutional right to abortion guaranteed by the decision in Roe v. Wade since 1973.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.