Citing Attorney General Josh Kaul's ties to the organization, Republican legislative leaders are seeking to intervene in a lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood against the state.
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin filed a federal lawsuit in January challenging a set of state regulations that prevent nurse practitioners from providing abortions and restrict a woman's ability to receive a medication abortion.
Kaul was endorsed by Planned Parenthood's political arm in his 2018 campaign, but has also said he will defend state laws even if he does not personally support them "if there is a legally defensible position to take."
"If there's a reasonable, legal basis for defending those statutes, we will," he said in an interview last month.
A Kaul spokeswoman declined to comment on the Republican lawmakers' move.
Kaul filed a notice of appearance late last month, indicating his intention to represent the state, but hasn't indicated what his arguments will be. The case is before U.S. District Judge William M. Conley.
On Wednesday, Republican leaders in the Legislature said they will seek to intervene in the lawsuit and hire their own taxpayer-funded attorneys to defend the laws.
"With Attorney General Kaul’s lengthy history of forwarding Planned Parenthood’s agenda, and with Attorney General Kaul not signaling how he plans to defend Wisconsin’s pro-life laws, it is necessary for the Legislature to attempt to intervene in this case," said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald in a statement. "Democrats across the country are rolling back pro-life laws and pushing the legalization of late-term abortions. Wisconsin Republicans will fight against any efforts to try that here."
In addition to Planned Parenthood's endorsement, Republicans pointed to Kaul's decision earlier this month to join a multi-state lawsuit challenging a President Donald Trump administration policy that would direct tens of millions of federal Title X family planning dollars away from Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood's national organization is also challenging the rule in a separate lawsuit.
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin is challenging a set of laws signed by former Gov. Scott Walker that the organization contends are medically unnecessary and exist only to limit access to abortions.
"One of the reasons that I ran for office was to protect the lives of unborn children. It's important that there's representation in this case that will stand up to Planned Parenthood and defend these important pro-life laws," said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, in a statement.
Wisconsin women seeking abortions have been required to participate in a counseling appointment followed by a 24-hour waiting period since 1996 — a requirement Planned Parenthood is not challenging. A 2012 law requires a woman obtaining a medication abortion to see the same physician she saw at her first counseling visit, and requires the physician to be in the same room to watch the woman take the first dose of medication. The second dose may be taken at home.
State law also says only a physician can provide an abortion, a requirement Planned Parenthood argues "arbitrarily" bans advanced practice nurses, like nurse practitioners and nurse midwives, from performing a procedure they are otherwise qualified to provide.
In its complaint against the state, Planned Parenthood argues that advanced practice nurses "can and do" provide identical procedures for women experiencing miscarriages. Attorneys also cite statements from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Public Health Association and the World Health Association supporting advanced practice nurses' ability to provide abortions.
The organization's attorneys argue the state has "arbitrarily limited the class of medical professionals authorized to provide abortion services and has placed additional unique and unjustifiable restrictions on women’s ability to obtain medication-induced abortions."
Planned Parenthood operates three of the four facilities in Wisconsin that provide abortions. Clinics in Madison and Milwaukee offer surgical and medication abortions, and a clinic opened in Sheboygan in May offers medication abortions. Affiliated Medical Services also provides abortions in Milwaukee.
In 2016, Planned Parenthood was successful in challenging a requirement that doctors providing abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, accused his Republican colleagues of attempting to "undercut and undermine" Kaul.
"The power trip the Speaker and Majority Leader are on seems endless. It’s clear they are more interested in doubling down on an ideological agenda than serving the public," Hintz said in a statement.