Pending SCOTUS ruling and what it means for Eau Claire

State laws from 172 years ago could determine the status of abortion care in Eau Claire and the state of Wisconsin going forward

Timothy Spierings (They/He)

More stories from Timothy Spierings (They/He)


Timothy Spierings

Julia Boe, Tyson Kalinwoski, Matthew Lehner and Emily Casey show the signs they made for the Eau Claire peaceful protest of the pending Roe v. Wade overturn in the Supreme Court following the draft leak on May 2.

Across Wisconsin, many local government buildings experienced crowds in front of their doors following the surprise leak of a draft by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito regarding an overturn of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey on Monday, May 2.

In the Eau Claire community, the Eau Claire County Courthouse saw such a crowd the following day on Tuesday, May 3 at 5:30 p.m.

The leak, first broken by Politico to the nation, provided a 98-page draft from Justice Alito that would overturn the 1973 court case of Roe v. Wade and the 1992 court case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey. An overturn of these two rulings would result in abortion laws depending on each state’s legislature regarding whether abortion would be legal.

“This is one of the only countries in the world without family paid leave and without affordable childcare and we have neither,” Deb McGrath, Wisconsin’s 3rd district congressional candidate and a speaker at the protest, said. “This is a place where in this state that if this law is repealed women would have to leave the state to get reproductive care.”

Bobbi Green, former chairwoman of the 3rd Congressional District Democratic Party of Wisconsin and self-professed “pissed-off mom,” helped to organize the protest that started outside of the courthouse with Deb McGrath and members of the Eau Claire County Democratic Party Resource Center.

Green said that following the leak of the overturn draft from Politico, she started receiving calls asking if anything was happening in Eau Claire in response.

“I’ve never been very good about being quiet about it, you know what I mean?” Green said. “‘Sit down little girl, I’ll ask you for your opinion when I’m done and ready for it?’ I just got really mad and a lot of women I know were really mad.”

Prior to the passing of Roe v. Wade, the law in Wisconsin regarding abortion — created in 1849 — states that the only circumstances where an abortion would be legal, called a therapeutic abortion, would have to be to save the mother’s life and approved by two different physicians.

“This impending decision to repeal Roe v. Wade is an attack on our fundamental rights and our freedoms,” McGrath said.

Green said the possibility of young women being forced to carry a child or give themselves abortions at home makes her sick to think of.

“It’s not going to lessen the number of abortions, in my opinion. I think it’s just going to drive them into homes. It’s going to be do-it-your-own abortions again,” Green said.

The Eau Claire chapter of Wisconsin Right To Life, a pro-life non-profit organization, was contacted however was unavailable for comment.

Current abortion access

The Eau Claire Planned Parenthood does not currently offer abortion care at its facility. Joella Streibl, the Planned Parenthood public affairs regional coordinator for western Wisconsin, said the current procedure is to refer patients requiring abortion care to either the big cities like Milwaukee and Madison or send them to Minnesota. 

The local facility does offer contraceptive choices like birth control as well as sexually transmitted infection screenings, cervical cancer screenings and most recently gender affirming hormone therapy for transgender and nonbinary patients among other services.

Streibl said preventing legal abortions would mean longer wait times for folks seeking abortion care as they travel out of state, which is an issue regarding the sensitivity of time when seeking an abortion.

“Anytime we see additional restrictions placed on abortion anywhere in the country, it just disproportionately impacts people who live in poverty, particularly people of color, trans and LGBTQ people and others who already face a lot of barriers to accessing good health care,” Streibl said. 

Streibl also said that western Wisconsin already struggles with access to abortion care. People who survive rape, incest or other cases of sexual assault would not have access to abortion care should the Supreme Court decide to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

This overturn would also not allow abortion care for those who are pregnant and whose health is threatened by the pregnancy but perhaps are not facing the loss of their life should they carry to full term, Streibl said.

Streibl said that Planned Parenthood facilities will stay open regardless of what happens with the Supreme Court ruling. Should abortion become illegal in Wisconsin again, their services will include assisting patients with their needs of accessing abortion care over the state line. 

Potential aftermath of an overturn in Wisconsin

According to Streibl there is legislature in Wisconsin called the Abortion Rights Preservation Act which would overturn or appeal the standing abortion ban in Wisconsin law.

Additionally, a poll ran by Marquette Law School on Jan. 26 showed that 61% of Wisconsinites polled believe that abortion should be allowed in Wisconsin. 

Several politicians within the Wisconsin government have expressed both support and disdain for the overturn of Roe and Casey. Rebecca Kleefisch, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, and Kevin Nicholson, another Republican gubernatorial candidate, have both tweeted out support of the overturn following the Politico leak.

Gov. Tony Evers expressed his disagreement with the SCOTUS’ pending decision, stating his past decision to veto Republican bills limiting reproductive freedoms. 

Both Illinois and Minnesota abortion care facilities have expressed intent to anticipate more out-of-state patients seeking care if the overturn should pass.

According to CNET, the decision to overturn Roe and Casey likely won’t be made until mid-to-late June. 

Spierings can be reached at [email protected].