No Time to Turn Back: Fighting for a Future with Reproductive Rights

By Wisconsin Secretary of State Sarah Godlewski

One Country Project
3 min readJun 24, 2024

Two years ago today marked the end of women’s health as we knew it. When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, it reversed 50 years of reproductive rights that women across the country could rely on. The Dobbs decision’s domino effect knocked down the law of the land and turned back time. It revived a law from 175 years ago that ceased abortion services in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin has had an abortion ban since 1849. There are no exceptions for rape or incest. Doctors can be fined or even jailed for providing abortion services. While a recent court decision has ruled that this outdated law does not apply to today’s medical abortion practices, our reproductive rights are hanging on by a shoestring.

As Secretary of State, I’ve traveled all over Wisconsin, and have heard that reproductive rights is always top of mind for doctors, women, and their loved ones. It’s an issue every family has to face. Dobbs has infected all aspects of reproductive health. Women who want to have a child through IVF, girls who take birth control for its health benefits, mothers who miscarry when trying for another child — all of them and their families have been thrown into uncertainty. At stake is not just their freedoms, but their health and wellbeing.

But it doesn’t seem to matter that our neighbors’ health hangs in the balance. Anti-abortion laws are still being passed. Politicians are still getting in the way of patients and doctors’ ability to make health care choices.

A majority of Wisconsinites believe in access to abortion care. Last year, during the Wisconsin Supreme Court elections, when it was clear abortion was on the line, voters elected Justice Janet Protasiewicz by double digits to protect our reproductive rights.

And while that 1849 ban is part of a past we’re not proud of, Wisconsinites can say that we also have a history of standing up for women’s rights.

Wisconsin was the first state to sign the 19th Amendment, the first state to support giving women the right to vote. Here in Wisconsin, we believe in expanding and strengthening rights, not taking them away.

We cannot go back in time to two years ago any more than we can go back to 1849. The only way out of this mess is to fight through it.

This November’s election holds even more consequence for abortion access than last April’s. We know that Donald Trump, who appointed three of the Supreme Court Justices that overturned Roe, along with a cast of anti-abortion federal judges and administration appointees, will not safeguard our fundamental right to health care on our terms.

We cannot continue to rely on the courts to set public policy. We need to pass Senator Tammy Baldwin’s Women’s Health Protection Act, which would make Roe v. Wade’s abortion protections the law of the land. With powerful legislation guaranteeing our access to abortion — and to contraception, IVF, and other maternity care — we secure a future where our daughters and granddaughters won’t have to worry about whether they can make their own health care decisions: they’ll be free to make their own choices about their own bodies.