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Fact Checking

Yes, Wisconsin’s abortion law is older than 20 U.S. states

With a U.S. Supreme Court ruling near, which could overturn or substantially modify the decades-old Roe vs. Wade decision, abortion is a top of mind issue for many.

At the center of the debate in Wisconsin is a 173-year-old law – one that nearly dates to the state’s inception – that, if Roe is overturned, would criminalize abortion except in cases where it is necessary to save the mother’s life. 

The re-election campaign for Gov. Tony Evers used a novel way to compare how old the law is in a June 13, 2022 email to supporters.

Evers, a Democrat, is an abortion-rights supporter. On June 8, 2022 he called the Republican-controlled Legislature into session to address the old law, but GOP leaders met only briefly on June 22, 2022 and took no action. Republican lawmakers who control the state Legislature on June 22, 2022 rejected a special legislative session called by Evers to overturn the 1849 law that would outlaw abortion in the state except when necessary to save the life of the mother.   

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“Wisconsin’s archaic abortion ban is older than 20 states,” senior press secretary Kayla Anderson said in the message. 

That caught our attention, so we thought others may be interested in it as well.

Twenty states joined the union after 1849 

When we reached out to Anderson, she sent us a link to the list of states’ dates of admission to the union from Encyclopedia Britannica. 

Wisconsin became a state in May 1948, the year before its abortion law was passed. 

Here is the full list of states granted statehood after the 1849 Wisconsin law: 

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  • California, September 1850

  • Minnesota, May 1858

  • Oregon, February 1859

  • Kansas, January 1861

  • West Virginia, June 1863

  • Nevada, October 1864

  • Neraska, March 1867

  • Colorado, August 1876

  • North Dakota, November 1889

  • South Dakota, November 1889

  • Montana, November 1889

  • Washington, November 1889

  • Idaho, July 1980

  • Wyoming, July 1890

  • Utah, January 1896

  • Oklahoma, November 1907

  • New Mexico, January 1912

  • Arizona, February 1912

  • Alaska, January 1959 

  • Hawaii, August 1959 

That does tally 20.

Our ruling 

Evers’ campaign said that Wisconsin’s abortion law, which would go into effect were Roe v. Wade overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, is older than 20 states. 

Indeed, 20 states were accepted after 1849, including California, Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii. 

We rate this claim True. 

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