An abortion rally at the Wyoming Capitol in Cheyenne after last summer's U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe. v. Wade. (Cowboy State Daily File Photo)

Pro-Choice Groups Sue Wyoming, Ask Judge To Halt Ban That Starts Wednesday

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

A contingent of abortion providers and abortion-funding groups on Monday asked Wyoming’s court system to halt the state’s imminent ban on abortion and furthermore, to declare it unconstitutional.   

If the court doesn’t grant the injunction, performing an abortion in Wyoming will, by this Wednesday, be a felony punishable by up to 14 years in prison, except in cases of rape, incest, and severe health or death risks to the mother.   

“Some women may be forced to forego educational opportunities, face decrease opportunities to fulfill their economic potential, and may be more likely to experience economic insecurity and raise their children in poverty due to the Wyoming Criminal Abortion Ban,” reads the complaint filed Monday in Teton County District Court.  

The complaint alleges further that the abortion ban will hinder doctors from helping women with dangerous pregnancy complications for fear of being prosecuted, and that it will harm women’s health and financial stability.  

Constitutional Claim 

The lawsuit states that the Wyoming Constitution provides for abortion access because of a 2012 measure passed by voters to combat Obamacare, or Affordable Health Care Act provisions.  

“Each competent adult shall have the right to make his or her own health care decisions,” reads Section 38 of the Wyoming Constitution.  

However, subsection c of the section states that “The Legislature may determine reasonable and necessary restrictions on the rights granted under this section to protect the health and general welfare of the people or to accomplish the other purposes set forth in the Wyoming Constitution.”  

The caveat in subsection c could give pro-life groups a counter-battle in lawsuits surrounding abortion, according to Marti Halverson, president of Wyoming Right to Life. Halverson had spoken at length of the clause and its facets during a speech Friday at the Save Wyoming political rally featuring Republican political candidates in Lander.  

Wyoming statute does not define abortion as a type of “health care.” In other states with permissive abortion statutes such as Colorado, however, abortion is defined as a type of “reproductive health care.” 

Those filing suit include: 

  • Danielle Johnson, who is 22 weeks pregnant, and, the document states, is concerned she wouldn’t be able to get an abortion in Wyoming if her baby has lethal complications;  
  • Kathleen Dow, who had an abortion previously “to protect herself after becoming pregnant in an abusive relationship;”  
  • Obstetrics specialist Dr. Giovannina Anthony, of Jackson, Wyoming, who last year performed “dozens” of Wyoming’s nearly 100 abortions; 
  • Obstetrics specialist Dr. Rene Hinkle, who, the pleading states, would “have to stop offering elective second trimester terminations for pregnancies that are found to have lethal fetal complications; 
  • Chelsea’s Fund, which is a funding and information assistance group that seeks to enable Wyoming and Idaho women to access abortion services; 
  • And Circle of Hope, the abortion provider led by Julie Burkhart, who this year has been working to open an abortion clinic in Casper.  

The lawsuit is intended to halt and reshape the actions of Wyoming, where the Legislature in March passed a law making abortion illegal in the event of any overturn of landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case Roe vs. Wade, which had treated abortion as a constitutional right for nearly 50 years.  

When the high court did overturn Roe vs. Wade on June 24, Wyoming’s trigger ban, or law reacting to the court action to outlaw abortion, fell under a verification process that is now nearly complete.  

The Wyoming Secretary of State should have the ban codified no later than Wednesday.  

Those listed as defendants in the suit include: 

  • Gov. Mark Gordon 
  • Attorney General Bridget Hill 
  • Teton County Sheriff Matthew Carr 
  • And Jackson chief of police Michelle Weber 

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