Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Wednesday called a special legislative session next month to consider allowing voters to submit ballot initiatives and referendums, with the ultimate goal of giving voters a decision to repeal the state’s 1849 abortion ban.
“At the end of the day, Wisconsinites — and women in particular — have not only been stripped of their reproductive freedom, they now have no right to make the change they need to protect that freedom without consent. Legislature That’s wrong, and it’s time to change that,” Evers, a Democrat, said in a statement.
Evers signed an executive order bringing lawmakers back to Madison for a special session at 10 a.m. on Oct. 5.
His order asks lawmakers to consider amending the state constitution to create a “binding statewide referendum process” that would allow voters to propose laws and constitutional changes at the polls or repeal state laws. The proposal would allow Wisconsinites to bypass the Legislature by voting directly to repeal the abortion law, according to the governor’s office. Voters would also be allowed to propose laws, constitutional amendments and referendums on any issue.
Over the summer, abortion rights activists in Kansas scored a major victory when voters blocked an effort to amend the state constitution that would have allowed lawmakers to ban abortion in the state.
Currently, Wisconsin’s constitutional amendment process requires a proposal to pass two consecutive legislatures before it can be put to the vote.
Under the process set forth in the governor’s proposal, voters would submit petitions to the Wisconsin Board of Elections and the petition must be signed by a sufficient number of qualified voters verified by the agency. A general election vote would then take place at least 120 days after the petition was filed.
In a joint statement, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said Evers “would rather push his agenda to make abortion available until birth than talk about dealing with rising crime and runaway inflation in DC caused by his liberal allies. Hopefully, voters to see his desperate political situation.”
Wisconsin law prohibits almost all abortions, including in cases of rape and incest, but makes exceptions for abortions necessary to save the life of the fetus.
The law states that “any person who intentionally destroys the life of an unborn child, other than the mother, is guilty of a Class H felony,” punishable by up to six years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.
The governor previously called a special session on June 22 to repeal the 19th-century abortion ban, but the Republican leader gave up without debate or discussion. CNN reached out to GOP leadership in the Legislature to find out if state Republicans will do the same next month.
The ban was enacted by the US Supreme Court in Roe v. After Wade was overruled.
Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul have filed an appeal against the ban, asking a state court to clarify that it has not gone into effect and declare it unenforceable.