By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
A plan put forth in a passionate plea by a New York congresswoman to put abortion clinics on federal lands in conservative states would face a series of hurdles in Wyoming, where roughly half the land is federally held.
“Open abortion clinics on federal lands right now! – right now!” U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, chanted Friday during a protest in Union Square.
News outlets have since reported that Ocasio-Cortez was trying to persuade President Joe Biden to install abortion clinics on federal lands, which include national parks like Yellowstone and tribal regions like the Wind River Indian Reservation.
Ocasio-Cortez and numerous Democratic lawmakers were livid Friday when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned landmark abortion case Roe vs. Wade, putting authority over abortions into the hands of the states rather than making the procedure a constitutionally protected right across the country.
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, also raised the idea, telling reporters that “(Biden should) explore just how much we can start using federal lands as a way to protect people who need access to abortions,” in states about to ban the procedure.
Abortion is slated to become illegal in Wyoming in less than a month.
For Biden’s administration to build and fund abortion clinics anywhere – including on federal lands – is generally illegal under the Hyde Amendment, a provision of U.S. law prohibiting federal funding of all abortions except in the case of incest, rape, and severe health crises.
The law does not forbid an abortion provider from opening a private clinic on federal lands.
However, privately-funded abortionists can’t work without a state medical license, if they’re working in Wyoming.
Doctors working in federal facilities can operate under a license from any U.S. jurisdiction, but health care providers working in private facilities within Wyoming’s borders must have a Wyoming medical license.
‘Closing Any Loopholes’
State law currently does not list performing abortions as grounds for the Wyoming Medical Board to revoke a doctor’s license, which Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody, said she sees as a “loophole.”
Rodriguez-Williams was the sponsor of Wyoming’s “trigger ban,” outlawing abortion after the Supreme Court’s decision. She told Cowboy State Daily that she is considering revising Wyoming’s medical licensing laws to prevent abortions on federal property.
“I will be committed to close any loopholes that we become aware of, whether it’s (by) drafting a bill to codify something in state statute that deals with the board of medicine… or drafting a bill that prevents aiding and abetting (abortions),” she said.
Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette, who co-sponsored the trigger ban, agreed with Rodriguez-Williams, adding that changing medical licensing laws around the new legal landscape shouldn’t be a problem for the Legislature that passed a trigger ban.
“Considering the fact that the current law going into place no later than July 29 has a 14-year prison term for performing an abortion, I don’t think it would be a far stretch to say that we’d remove someone’s license to practice,” said Bear.
A privately-funded abortionist likewise could operate legally on the Wind River Indian Reservation, especially as the current U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has pledged to do all in his power to preserve abortion access.
The reservation falls under tribal jurisdiction for misdemeanor crimes and federal jurisdiction for felony-level crimes. Neither forbids abortion.
However, non-tribal members on the reservation can still be prosecuted under state law.
Fremont County Attorney Patrick LeBrun said he would prosecute under the new abortion ban as far as his jurisdiction allows.
“If have jurisdiction, I’ll prosecute it,” he said.
As with federal public lands and state parks, doctors operating on the reservation must have medical licenses.