Coronavirus rates in Wisconsin are at an all-time high, but a group that calls itself “pro-life” is attempting to block the governor’s “safer at home” order so it can continue holding fundraisers.
Pro-Life Wisconsin, an anti-abortion group known for its bold stands on issues like buying Girl Scout cookies, joined with a local bar and grill owner Tuesday to appeal a court decision allowing Gov. Tony Evers’ emergency order to stand. The Oct. 6 order limits bars, restaurants, and other venues to 25 percent of their usual capacity in an effort to reduce the number of new coronavirus cases in the state, which hit a record 3,287 Tuesday.
In the appeal, Pro-Life Wisconsin claims the order has prevented them from hosting regular events, such as fundraisers, because venues are wary of holding large gatherings under the current restrictions.
“Emergency Order #3 makes it ‘impossible’ for Pro-Life Wisconsin Education Task Force, Inc., and Pro-Life Wisconsin, Inc., to ‘schedule[e] venues’ even for ‘regular fundraising events, which are open to the public,’ and their ‘educational itinerary,’” the appeal states. (Some of these events must be inside, the appeal states, “because of Pro-Life Wisconsin’s location in Wisconsin.”)
But the organization’s website and Facebook page are still advertising for an Oct. 22 “Love for Life Gala.” An invitation for the event describes it as the organization’s “largest fundraising dinner,” and a time to “mingle with your pro-life friends” in the Brookfield Conference Center’s 24,000-square-foot ballroom. Guests will be seated at a table with up to 10 people, with “plenty of elbow room,” according to the invite, but masks will not be required.
Reached by phone, Pro-Life Wisconsin President Dan Miller declined to comment, saying he had “a lot going on before the event tomorrow.” A spokesperson for the conference center, however, said the event had been canceled. The PR company to which Miller directed questions did not respond to multiple calls and emails.
In recent weeks, Pro-Life Wisconsin has also encouraged supporters to stand in front of abortion clinics and “counsel” women seeking abortions—pandemic be damned. (“Our physical presence is a statement of love and a reminder of hope,” program director Therese Aukofer wrote in a recent blog post. “We can’t let fear and hesitancy hold us back.”) Photos posted to the group’s Facebook page show more than 20 people gathered, maskless, outside an abortion clinic earlier this month.
Pro-Life Wisconsin is not the only anti-abortion group flouting CDC restrictions. In September, a group of “crisis pregnancy centers” that discourage women from getting abortions held their annual conference at the Disney World Swan and Dolphin resort in Orlando. The organization did not respond to requests for comment at the time, but its website claimed more than 1,300 people had attended the indoor event in previous years. Masks were not required at this event either, and photos posted to social media show they were loosely employed.
Just this month, two conservative activists launched a nationwide bus tour after attending the White House Rose Garden superspreader event. Concerned Women for America President Penny Nance and Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin were spotted posing for pictures with supporters just 11 days after potentially being exposed to the virus, rather than quarantining as the CDC recommends. (Nance and Martin later claimed they had both tested negative for the virus.)
Wisconsin, meanwhile, is experiencing a dramatic surge in the coronavirus, which currently accounts for 6 percent of cases in the entire country. On top of a record-high seven-day average of cases, the state also reported a record number of hospitalizations this week. According to Andrea Palm, secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 62 percent of the state’s total cases were reported in the past two months.
"We’re in a much worse place now than we were in March and April,” Palm said in a conference call reported by The Capital Times. “So now is the time for all of us to double down and do our part.”
Evers’ “safer at home” order describes the state as “the nation’s COVID-19 hot spot,” and says intervening measures are “necessary to slow the rampage of illness and death caused by the virus.” A circuit court judge tossed out the Tavern League of Wisconsin’s challenge to that order Monday. Pro-Life Wisconsin’s suit is an appeal of that decision.