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In a 2019 interview, Wisconsin’s Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson advocated for letting states, rather than the federal government, decide on abortion restrictions. That way, he said, “if you don’t like the result in your state that you currently reside in, you can move.”

But during his time in Congress, Johnson has co-sponsored bills that would have placed restrictions on abortion at the federal level, including the 2011 Life at Conception Act, which would have granted “the right to life” for “each born and preborn human person” starting “at the moment of conception.”

In his 2022 Senate campaign, Johnson has proposed a referendum to allow voters to decide Wisconsin’s abortion laws. But that would require the GOP-controlled Legislature to put the measure on the ballot. And Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has said lawmakers will fight to keep Wisconsin’s 1849 law in place.


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Sen. Ron Johnson opposes new Alabama law banning abortion after six weeks

US Congress: S.91 – Life at Conception Act112th Congress (2011-2012)

Wisconsin Public Radio: Ron Johnson pitches unlikely ‘direct referendum’ to add rape, incest exceptions to 1849 abortion ban

WISN: Vos says legislation adding exceptions for rape or incest to state’s abortion ban ‘unlikely’

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Erin Gretzinger joined Wisconsin Watch as a reporting intern in May 2022. She is a journalism and French major at UW-Madison and will graduate in spring 2023. Erin previously worked for the Wisconsin State Journal as a reporting intern and served as the 2021-22 editor-in-chief at The Badger Herald. She is a recipient of the Jon Wolman Scholarship, the Sigrid Schultz Scholarship and the Joseph Sicherman Award Fund for her academic and reporting work.