Reached by CNA on Monday, Dulli declined to comment further, saying he believes the situation has been “talked about enough.”
What’s Tuesday’s election all about?
The 2023 Wisconsin judicial race, which might have remained obscure in other years even within Wisconsin, is garnering national media attention and record fundraising numbers for the candidates. The reasons have to do with a prediction — both among pro-life and pro-abortion groups — that the winner of the election could tip the scales in Wisconsin when it comes to the state’s current abortion ban.
Wisconsin is the only state in the nation with a pre-Roe v. Wade abortion ban in effect, at least on paper. Wisconsin’s ban, which is contained in Section 940.04 of the Wisconsin Statutes and dates to 1849, allows abortion only to save the life of the mother. The state’s Democratic governor and attorney general have said they will not enforce the ban and are currently suing in an attempt to have it overturned.
The law was previously unenforceable following the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, but Roe’s overturning last year allowed the statute to come into effect. So far, it has not been blocked in court, as has happened with pre-Roe bans in West Virginia and Michigan.
Pro-abortion groups within and outside Wisconsin have identified the state Supreme Court race as the key to getting 940.04 overturned. Gov. Tony Evers, along with Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, announced a lawsuit last year to attempt to overturn the law, arguing that it has been superseded by subsequent legislation and cannot be enforced.
The lawsuit is likely to be ultimately decided by the state Supreme Court, which has had a 4-3 conservative majority for the past decade and a half. The current election will determine who will sit in the open seat being vacated by retiring conservative justice Patience Roggensack. The winner will serve a 10-year term.
Pro-life advocates worry that should the state Supreme Court obtain a pro-choice majority, the state’s pre-Roe ban could be declared unconstitutional, as happened last year in neighboring Michigan.
Who are the candidates?
Kelly is a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice who served on the court from his appointment by then-Gov. Scott Walker in 2016 until he was voted out in 2020. He describes himself as a “constitutional conservative” and on his campaign website charges that his opponents are “judicial activists who seek to impose their own political agenda on our state.”
Amid a contentious campaign, Kelly has earned the endorsement of three statewide pro-life groups — Wisconsin Family Action, Pro-Life Wisconsin, and Wisconsin Right to Life. He said during a recent debate that his numerous endorsements from pro-life groups came about after having conversations with them about his pledge to uphold the Constitution, not because of any promise to keep the abortion ban in place.
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In contrast, Protasiewicz has garnered endorsements from numerous top Democrats in Wisconsin as well as from pro-abortion groups such as NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and EMILY’s List. Protasiewicz currently is a judge for Branch 24 of the Milwaukee County Circuit Court in Wisconsin, having been elected to that court in 2014.
Protasiewicz has insisted she has made “no promises” to pro-abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood and EMILY’s List but also has made no bones about her pro-choice views. “My personal opinion is that [it] should be the woman’s right to make the reproductive health decisions, period,” she said during a March 21 debate.
What have Catholic leaders said?
At least two of the state’s bishops, including Bishop Donald Hying of Madison, have reiterated to Catholics that the right to life is a foundational issue that should form their consciences as they decide how to vote on Tuesday.
“Without the right to be born and to live, every other right is worthless,” Hying wrote in a March 30 letter.
“Do we want to live in a country that welcomes the wonder of every human life, supports marriages and families, helps the needy and suffering, seeks justice for all, and builds a civilization of love, or, do we want a society which aborts its children, leaves struggling parents without support, and lives a radical autonomy with no reference to the dignity of life and the common good? Do we elect civic leaders who stand on the unshakeable moral principle that every human life is sacred and of immeasurable worth, or, do we elect those who disregard the fundamental dignity of life and advocate for taking the life of the most innocent in the womb? Such questions we should ask ourselves as we exercise our moral and civic duty to vote.”