Judge Halts Controversial Ab0rtion Ban In Wyoming
On Wednesday(March 22, 2023), a judge temporarily suspended a prohibition that had taken effect in Wyoming a few days earlier, meaning that ab0rtion is once again permitted in the state.
In light of a challenge to legislation that went into effect on Sunday(March 19, 2023) in Teton County, District Court Judge Melissa Owens has temporarily stayed the restriction. Despite Owens’s prior orders blocking a previous prohibition since shortly after it took effect last summer, the Republican-controlled Legislature adopted the measure.
After a hearing on Wednesday, where ab0rtion-rights advocates testified that the bill affects pregnant women and their doctors and violates the state constitution, Owens placed the new ban on hold. Owens put the restriction on hold for a minimum of two weeks.
The restriction applies to all phases of pregnancy, making the only exceptions the reporting of inc*st to the authorities or the need to terminate a pregnancy to save a woman’s life.
Republicans in Wyoming banned ab0rtion because it does not qualify as health care, despite a constitutional amendment that guarantees individuals the freedom to make medical decisions.
Owens argued that the courts, not lawmakers, should decide the question. Owens said in an oral decision at the end of an hourslong hearing-
“The state can not legislate away a constitutional right. It’s not clear whether ab0rtion is health care. The court has to decide that then.”
As for Wyoming’s first-in-the-nation restriction on ab0rtion d*ugs, which is also being challenged in her court, the judge did not offer any opinion. The Republican governor, Mark Gordon, signed that bill into law on Friday(March 17, 2023), but it won’t take effect until July 1.
To halt Wyoming’s expanded ab0rtion prohibition, two organizations, two doctors, and two other women have filed suit.
The new restriction on ab0rtion pills, according to ab0rtion-rights attorney John Robinson, contradicts the recent ban on ab0rtion itself, which states that ab0rtion is not health care. He emphasized that the prohibition on the pill makes it possible to “cure” mi*carriages and potentially save a woman’s life.
“How can ab0rtion be health care in one statute prohibiting ab0rtion and not the other?” “That’s medical treatment.”
Robinson pointed out that not even Gordon was satisfied that the total ab0rtion ban, which he had not signed, adequately addressed the constitutional issue.
However, Special Assistant Attorney General Jay Jerde argued before the court that the Legislature had the authority to “interpret the constitution and that interpretation is entitled to significant deference from the court.”
According to him, it’s “absolutely ludicrous” to suggest that the amendment would legalize medical marijuana dispensaries in Wyoming or any other treatment currently outlawed there.
In July, after the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade and left it up to the states to determine whether or not to allow ab0rtion, Owens lifted a similar prohibition in Wyoming. Attempting to respond to Owens’s concerns following her earlier order, legislators drafted new legislation.
A women’s health clinic in Jackson, Wyoming, was the only facility in the state that offered ab0rtions. It was forced to close this week after the state’s sweeping prohibition was enacted.
Wellspring Health Access, a non-profit organization, intended to establish the first and only ab0rtion clinic in Wyoming in Casper. An arson incident in May of 2022 delayed its debut, but on Wednesday(March 22, 2023), authorities revealed that a woman had been arrested in connection with the blaze.
On Thursday(March 23, 2023), Casper resident Lorna Roxanne Green, age 22, was due to appear in federal court in Cheyenne. Julie Burkhart, president of the organization, was pleased with the court’s decision on Wednesday.
Burkhart said in a statement-
“Regardless of how anti-choice legislators try to spin it, ab0rtion is health care, and Wyomingites have a constitutional right to that care.”
The facility was supposed to open last summer, but an arson attack delayed its debut until next month. In a statement, Gordon expressed his displeasure with the decision and hoped the state would have another opportunity to defend the ab0rtion ban in court.