Elections of judges – in those states that even hold them – typically don’t attract that much attention. That is not the case, however, with a February 21 primary race for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court to replace the retiring Justice Patience D. Roggensack, whose record has been that of a judicial conservative.

For the last couple years, the seven-person high court has been considered to have a conservative, 4-3 majority. There is a current four-way race to replace Roggensack that could tip the balance of the court in favor of liberals.

In a state as narrowly divided, politically, as Wisconsin, a switch in the judicial philosophy of the majority of the court could spell trouble for the state’s existing pro-life laws and other family issues.

The race is so important that it even caught the attention of The New York Times and Politico last month. Both noted the large amounts of campaign money flowing into the state from interest groups, particularly those interested in the fate of Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion law – which bans all abortions except to save the life of the mother – currently being challenged in the state courts and headed for the state’s supreme court.

That pre-Roe v. Wade abortion ban took on new life, so to speak, last year when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe in the Dobbs case, placing the issue of abortion back into the hands of the states.

The February 21 “nonpartisan” primary race isn’t nonpartisan in reality, as it features two conservative judicial candidates, Daniel Kelly and Jennifer Dorow, and two liberals, Everett Mitchell and Janet Claire Protasiewicz.

Kelly, a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice from 2016-2020, lost his re-election bid in 2020. Dorow is a judge on the Waukesha County Circuit Court, and recently presided over the high-profile criminal trial of Darrell Brooks, the man convicted of killing six people after driving his car through a parade in Waukesha in 2021.

Protasiewicz is currently a judge on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court, and Mitchell is a judge on the Dane County Circuit Court.

The top two vote-getters in the primary will square off in the state’s general election on April 4.

Julaine Appling, president of Wisconsin Family Action, an ally of Focus on the Family, is warning pro-life, pro-family citizens in her state that critical issues such as abortion, parental rights and gender ideology are in play in this primary.

In response to an inquiry from the Daily Citizen, Appling told us, “I don’t recall an election more important than this one for our state. The future of Wisconsin is at stake.  If the balance of the court flips from conservative to liberal, the impact will last for decades as the liberal majority will take every opportunity to undo the conservative gains made in the last decade or so and to advance an agenda that will be a disaster for marriage, family, life, and religious freedom.”

In addition to Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion law currently being challenged in the state courts, other pro-life laws passed by the state legislature post-Roe that could be at stake in this election, according to Appling, include:

  • Waiting period before obtaining an abortion
  • Parental consent for minors
  • A 20-week abortion ban
  • A telemed abortion ban
  • An ultrasound requirement prior to an abortion
  • An informed consent law
  • Hospital admitting privileges required within 30-mile radius of an abortion facility

All of those post-Roe laws would still be in effect even if the current legal effort by liberals to overturn the 1849 abortion law is successful. But those laws could be vulnerable to future lawsuits, according to Appling.

At least one of the liberal candidates, Judge Protasiewicz, has made clear her intentions concerning Wisconsin’s pro-life laws, when she gave an interview asserting that abortion should be “a woman’s right to choose.”

And a Democrat state senator, Kelda Roys, commenting on the judicial race, told the Times that, “It’s going to be abortion morning, noon and night, even more than November was.”

Wisconsin has a Democrat governor, Tony Evers, but a Republican-controlled legislature. That political stalemate has created the perfect storm for activists on both sides of the political aisle to focus their attention on the election of a new justice, with high-stakes issues and big-money donors grabbing the limelight.

Please pray for the election and for the people of Wisconsin, whose lives – as well as future preborn lives – will definitely be impacted by the important choice they make at the ballot box.


Photo from Shutterstock.