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Reproductive justice activists continue the fight for abortion access in Wisconsin

By staff

Activists announce a petition drive to extend abortion access in Wisconsin. | Fight Back! News/staff

Milwaukee, WI – Roughly 40 people gathered at the Sunburst Statue off Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Milwaukee on Saturday, September 30, to call for equitable access to abortion. Reproductive Justice Action Milwaukee (RJAM) hosted the rally and petition kickoff event to continue the momentum for reproductive healthcare rights in Wisconsin, promoting their petition to expand abortion services and access.

The group had community tabling, led chants and had five speakers. A favorite chant heard throughout the event was “When reproductive rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back!” 

The speakers represented various groups actively involved in the fight for reproductive justice. They included Affiliated Medical Services (AMS) Escorts, Medical College of Wisconsin-Medical Students for Choice, Women’s Medical Fund (WMF) Wisconsin, RJAM, and Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO). All the speakers gave a call to action for people to join this fight as restoring access will still be a long battle in this Republican-controlled state. 

“Healthcare period. Beyond abortion. That’s what this is really about. Under fascism when they take away one thing, they’re only going to continue to push the envelope and we need to push back,” said Johanna Nevin, a founding member of RJAM.

Catie Petralia, serving as the event emcee, continued that note, talking about Wisconsin Republicans introducing a bill to ban gender affirming healthcare for youth, which was a big point of issue at the recent Republican National debate. Petralia said that this is, “an all-inclusive fight, an intersectional fight, making healthcare accessible and safe for all.” 

RJAM also hosted an impromptu rally on September 18 when Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin resumed abortion care at two of their clinics. Over 50 people came out to commemorate the news at the Milwaukee County Courthouse. 

The petition calls for abortion access on demand, citing as a hurdle Statute 940.015, which bans abortion after viability (as determined by a physician), requires mandatory in-person consultation, 24-hour waiting period, and bans telemedicine for abortion care. These requirements and restrictions make abortion care inaccessible for poor, rural or working-class people across the state. It forces them to drive long distances, pay for accommodations and take time off work, all things which many people cannot do. 

“We know the ones most affected by these requirements are those with the fewest resources. People who are poor, minors, in rural areas, working people with no insurance or sick leave and partners in same-sex relationships. Research has shown that requiring people to make a separate trip to clinics to receive state-mandated information stops 10 to 13% of people from getting abortion care they need,” said Sophia Ly. 

These restrictions on reproductive healthcare also strip people of their bodily autonomy, forcing them to wait unnecessary periods of time because the legislators don’t think people know their own lives and bodies. This waiting period also leaves people open to more harassment by the anti-choice protesters and the “crisis pregnancy centers.” These are fake clinics and usually run by religious organizations to convince people to keep their pregnancy, and they provide misleading information. These crisis pregnancy centers are not real healthcare clinics, so they don’t adhere to healthcare privacy laws. 

RJAM is partnering with Madison Abortion & Reproductive Rights Coalition for Healthcare (MARRCH) for this petition. This is a statewide effort to expand abortion access for women and trans and gender non-conforming people in the state. Even before Roe v. Wade was overturned in June 2022, only four clinics were offering abortion services in all of Wisconsin, meaning that the majority of northern and rural counties did not have easy or convenient access to reproductive healthcare. Once enough signatures are gathered, it will be presented to the Wisconsin state legislature to demand efforts and intention by legislators to make significant changes. 

Help RJAM keep up this fight and win back the right to reproductive healthcare for all by signing and sharing their petition. It currently has hundreds of signatures, with a goal of reaching 5000. People can sign the petition here: