As music stands were set up in preparation for a patriotic concert at the pavilion adjacent to the Rock County Courthouse on Friday night, the sentiment was not shared a few hundred feet up the hill.
There, dozens of people rallied in anger and frustration after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Friday that overturned Roe v. Wade, a nearly five-decade-old precedent. By a vote of 6-3, the conservative bloc of the current court ruled that the court overstepped in the 1973 ruling, citing multiple areas of the U.S. Constitution that it said do not guarantee the right to an abortion.
Without a recognized constitutional right to an abortion, Wisconsin law will revert back to an 1849 statute that outlaws virtually all kinds of abortion. The law makes it a felony to perform an abortion and only allows an exception for “therapeutic” abortions where the procedure is necessary to save the pregnant person’s life.
For some pregnancy conditions, an abortion procedure called dilation and curettage is the only way to save the life of the pregnant person. With ectopic pregnancies and incomplete miscarriages, for example, the surgery is the only way to prevent a patient from experiencing organ rupture or septic infections.
Friday’s protest in Janesville started off as a handful of people just before 5 p.m. It soon grew to more than five dozen people as residents of Janesville, Beloit and surrounding areas showed up to express their frustrations, chant and let out a collective scream.
“This ruling was no surprise, and I have never been shocked by the long game that conservatives have been playing in this country,” Rock County Board Supervisor Janelle Crary said during the protest. “The days of apathy are over. The days of conciliatory conversation are over. The days of hiding behind our privileges in our closed doors are done.”
Beloit City Council member Clinton Anderson, who is running for state Assembly this year, addressed the men in the crowd, encouraging them to talk to the people in their life about it and to not shy away from the topic even if it made them feel uncomfortable.
“We’ve been afraid to talk about women’s health and we treat it as taboo. Heck, most of us men are probably still afraid to go get pads and tampons,” he said. “We need to normalize that that’s OK, that is life, that is human function. We need to stop treating (reproductive health) like it’s not something we should talk about.”
Protesters also worried about what might be to come, citing U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurrence in which he stated he thought the court should consider remanding rights such as same-sex marriage and access to birth control back to state legislatures.
The concurrence struck a nerve with those who spoke at Janesville’s protest, almost all of whom said if they didn’t fight now, they would be at risk of losing protections.
“While striking down abortion rights, extremists on the Supreme Court made it clear that the underlying precedents that protect the right to contraception, the right to same-sex marriage and same-sex relationships, that those aren’t safe, either,” state Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D- Beloit, told the crowd. “We cannot rely on those precedents even though we still have those rulings enforced here today.”
Reactions to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling by state and federal politicians were split down party lines. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers decried the court’s decision, saying in a tweet that seeking an abortion is a “deeply personal decision without interference from politicians who don’t know anything about their life circumstances.” The three leading Republican gubernatorial candidates, meanwhile, cheered the ruling, saying it was a victory for the pro-life movement in protecting the right to life for the unborn.
Abortion remains legal in neighboring states Illinois and Minnesota. A group of independent doctors plans to open a clinic based in Rockford, Illinois, to provide pill-based abortions and eventually surgical abortions as they anticipate in influx of patients from Wisconsin, The Wisconsin State Journal reported Friday, June 24.
TOWN OF BELOIT
A group of Ho-Chunk Nation children and adults paddled into Beloit on Friday in a dugout canoe similar to what their ancestors used.
This dugout canoe was carved from a cottonwood tree that was donated by Dane County, and the group undertook a five-day journey on the Rock River from Middleton to Beloit.
“In 2016, Dane County had two cottonwood logs that they didn’t find any value in,” said Bill Quackenbush, division manager of Ho-Chunk’s Cultural Resource Division. “I told them everything has a value and asked if we could take them off their hands so we can create some dugout canoes with the youth.”
Quackenbush took the bottom of a trunk of one of the trees and with help from children carved it into a dugout canoe.
Similar to nearly everyone, the pandemic hit the tribe hard, and the project languished. In the meantime, the nation’s education and language departments came together to map the route the canoe would take down the Yahara and Rock rivers and historical significance of each stop on the route.
On June 20, the idea became a reality when the Ho-Chunk Nation group started its journey on Lake Mendota.
On Friday, June 24, they arrived at Preservation Park in the town of Beloit to start the last leg of their journey.
“We had a total of four different tribes that participated along the way,” Quackenbush said. “Today we are joined by a Ho-Chunk family from Nebraska.”
One of the members, 11-year-old Demetria Abangan-Browneagle, joined Quackenbush in the dugout canoe to paddle to Wootton Park in Beloit, about 3½ miles downstream. Abangan-Browneagle was on the journey since they started in Lake Mendota.
“We were surprised how many people came out to greet us at Preservation Park,” said Casey Brown, Ho-Chunk Nation public relations officer. “People were saying they heard about it from the Beloit Daily News. This kind couple even joined us with their own canoe for the next leg of the journey.
Rich Tippelt, town of Beloit deputy fire chief, and other staffers came out to see the canoe and meet the Ho-Chunk members at 9 a.m. The canoe landed in Wootton Park around 11 a.m.
State Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, was able to join Quackenbush on the dugout canoe for a few minutes once the group arrived at Wootton Park.
Quackenbush let anyone who wanted to step into the canoe and paddle for a few minutes before they loaded the canoe back onto the truck.
“Once we are done today, we will be donating the dugout canoe back to Dane County,” Quackenbush noted. “I promised when we got the logs that we would donate the first dugout canoe we made back to the county as a courtesy from our verbal handshake.”
The final stop on the journey was at Nature at the Confluence in South Beloit, Illinois, at noon.
The group from Ho-Chunk Nation, South Beloit Fire Department staff, Spreitzer, Beloit City Council President Regina Duncan and South Beloit City Administrator Sonya Hoppes all came to talk to the group and learn about the Ho-Chunk’s presence and history in South Beloit.
Kechunk Ciinak (Turtle Village), which until 1832 stood on the same land as Nature at the Confluence, was home to about 700 Ho-Chunk people.
Quackenbush discussed how adaptive their people have been to survive over the years. He stressed that his tribe isn’t only part of the area’s history but part of its present as well.
Janesville will not be losing its city manager to UW-Whitewater.
The university has hired Brenda Jones as its vice chancellor for administrative affairs, interim Chancellor John Chenoweth announced Friday in a release.
Janesville City Manager Mark Freitag had been a finalist for the position and toured the campus in May with Jones and two other candidates. The tour included individual public forums with each candidate in front of faculty, staff, students and community members.
The university post oversees operational planning and fiscal decisions.
Freitag, a former U.S. Army colonel, has been the city’s top administrator since 2013, when he filled a vacancy left by former Janesville City Manager Eric Levitt. He has been in that role about twice as long as his predecessor.
Jones has served as vice president for financial affairs for the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design since 2009, according to the release. Previously, she held controller and accounting roles that included educational institutions, accounting firms and city government.
Beginning Aug. 22, she will have oversight over financial planning and business operations, human resources, risk management, capital construction and renovation, as well as safety and police services.
“During the interview process, it was evident that she believes strongly in our mission to provide a high-quality university experience that is accessible to all students,” Chenoweth wrote in the release. “She has a track record of strong fiscal management and planning, as well as demonstrated experience implementing innovative strategies to solve problems and adapt to changing circumstances.”
A certified public accountant, Jones holds CPA professional memberships at the state and national level. She received her master’s degree in business administration from UW-Milwaukee and a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance from UW-Oshkosh.
Jones has also been honored by the Milwaukee Business Journal as CFO of the Year—Higher Education, and was named among the Notable Women in Higher Education by BizTimes Media.
“Over the years, I have had the opportunity to visit many of the UW campuses, and Whitewater has, by far, always been my favorite,” Jones said. “The passion for this campus that I saw in everyone I met only served to confirm what a special place this really is.”
Jeff Arnold will continue to serve in the vice chancellor role until Jones starts.
“We’re sincerely appreciative that Jeff Arnold returned to UW-Whitewater to serve in an interim capacity,” Chenoweth wrote. “His steady and collegial leadership style—combined with his knowledge and expertise in administrative affairs and the UW System as a whole—helped move the entire university forward. I wish him well as he resumes his retirement.”
Paul Ambrose led the university’s 10-member search and screening committee and is the interim dean of the UW-Whitewater College of Business and Economics.
Freitag publicly acknowledged last year that he had applied for a job as city manager of Reno, Nevada, but ultimately indicated that he was not offered that position.
During a closed-session meeting the week after Freitag was announced as a finalist, the Janesville city council publicly registered a “vote of confidence in support of the city manager, wishing him well” on a motion made by Council President Paul Benson.
Paul (Cieslewicz) Cecil
Stanley Jerome Cieslewicz
Linda A. Church
Elton K. Feffer
Berniece Ann (Bartelt) Gardner
James Gross Sr.
Martin A. “Marty” Kvalheim
Charles W. Larson
Rosalyn M. “Rosie” Marsden
Bonnie L. (Fredricks) Peck
Alice M. Shore
Patrick J. Redmond
James A. Riley
Michael John Ripsch