Wisconsin Democrats sought to turn the election into a referendum on abortion Tuesday after Republicans who control the state legislature convened for less than 30 seconds to let Gov. Tony Evers let voters decide the issue.
Evers, a Democrat governor, and Republican Senator Ron Johnson are seeking re-election in the state, where two of the most competitive races in the country are being played out. rights protection this summer.
The GOP-led legislature has upheld the 1849 law and added no exceptions for rape and incest. And Wisconsin’s law does not allow referendums like Michigan’s November vote, which could have given voters there the chance to overturn a decades-old abortion ban.
Evers – facing Republican businessman Tim Michels, who, in a setback that underscored the political power of the issue, last week said he supported exceptions to the abortion ban for rape and incest pregnancies called lawmakers into a special session on Tuesday. morning, asking to change the law so that voters can decide whether to repeal the 1849 abortion ban.
But the state Assembly and Senate adjourned for 30 seconds without taking any action on Evers’ proposals.
At a pro-abortion rights rally outside the Capitol in Madison after the legislative session ended Tuesday, Evers said this year’s election “will decide what kind of state we’re going to be in forever.”
He also said Wisconsin would be “the laughing stock of the country” and “the worst state in the union” if the state elects Republicans in November who are unwilling to change the 1849 abortion law.
“When it comes to reproductive freedom, the will of the people is obviously not the law of the land, but it should be,” Evers said at the “Your Choice, Your Vote” rally.
“Wisconsinites, women in particular, are not only deprived of their reproductive freedom, but today they have no right to change it and try to do so without getting permission from a bunch of politicians. Can you think of anything funnier? It is very bad,” he said.
It was part of a big push by Democrats to try to put the abortion rights debate at the center of Wisconsin’s election this year. Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, a Democrat challenging Johnson, this week launched a “Ron Against Roe” tour – citing the 1973 abortion ruling that was overturned by a Supreme Court decision in late June – with a slate of events. Johnson is being hammered because he opposes abortion rights.
Evers’ campaign, meanwhile, launched a new TV ad on Tuesday targeting Michels’ previous position.
“A 12-year-old girl cannot legally drive a car. At 12 he can’t even vote. But if this little girl were tragically raped or a victim of incest and became pregnant, the radical Tim Michels would force her to deliver the baby,” says a narrator in the Evers ad.
Michels did not directly respond to Evers on Tuesday. He was campaigning in Dells and attacking Evers on social media for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. His campaign did not respond to a request for comment about the special session or Evers’ comments at the rally.
The Democratic push comes as Republicans seek to turn the election into a referendum on Democrats’ handling of crime in Wisconsin and inflation under President Joe Biden. In recent weeks, GOP ads in the state have increasingly focused on crime, particularly in Milwaukee.
Johnson, at an event at the Rotary Club of Milwaukee on Tuesday, reiterated his stance on abortion in recent weeks, which echoes Evers’s proposal, saying voters should decide the issue through a referendum.
“We didn’t ask the people any questions. That’s what we have to do,” Johnson said in an attention-grabbing statement he tweeted An Associated Press reporter.
Evers responded to that tweet, saying On Twitter: “I agree: It’s been 100 days since #Roe was overturned, and I’ve called the Legislature into special session at 10am today to vote on a path to repealing our criminal abortion ban.”
“Republicans should stop paying lip service to reproductive freedom and do something about it,” Evers said.
State Rep. Sara Rodriguez, Evers’ running mate for governor, also highlighted Johnson’s stance in a rally outside the Capitol on Tuesday.
“There is bipartisan support for the referendum process. I don’t agree with much of what Sen. Ron Johnson said, but I agree with that,” he said. “Let’s get this done.”
Johnson has said he would like to change the state’s abortion law to allow exceptions for rape and incest. He told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in September that Wisconsin voters should have a chance to weigh in and would “prefer to do it through a straight referendum.”
However, Madison’s Republican leaders never took seriously Evers’ calls for a special session to create a legal avenue for the referendum, even though those calls came after Johnson proposed the referendum.
Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said in a statement in September: “Governor Evers would rather push his agenda to make abortion available until birth than talk about how D.C. has failed to deal with rising crime and inflation caused by his liberal allies. Fortunately, voters to see his desperate political situation.”
Johnson’s campaign did not respond to questions about his views on the legislature’s decision to adjourn Tuesday, ignoring Evers’ call to create a path for a referendum on abortion.