Wyoming’s Abortion Trigger Ban Advances To State Supreme Court

A lawsuit challenging Wyomings anti-abortion law is headed to the state Supreme Court and two lawmakers who sought to join the case have been denied. 

Clair McFarland

December 01, 20223 min read

Abortion rally 7 1 22
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

A lawsuit challenging Wyoming’s anti-abortion law is headed to the state Supreme Court – and two lawmakers who sought to join the case have been denied.   

Judge Melissa Owens, of Teton County District Court, on Wednesday denied state Reps. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody, and Chip Neiman, R-Hulett, and Wyoming Right to Life the chance to argue in favor of Wyoming’s abortion ban in the lawsuit against it.   

Judge Owens said in her order denying the intervention that she was “sympathetic” to the effort, but didn’t see the representatives and Right to Life as having significant, protectable interests in the case’s outcome.   

No Pain To Ease  

Rodriguez-Williams and Neiman, Owens said, launched their intervenor lawsuit because of their strong personal beliefs in the sanctity of fetal life, and to ensure that legislation passed by the Legislature would actually be enacted.   

Owens indicated that these are generic interests that many citizens hold, not an environmental or economic grievance to be eased by a court.   

“A challenge to a particular piece of legislation on the basis of its constitutionality is not an infringement on the legislators’ ability to enact laws,” wrote Owens. “The outcome of this case will not abrogate the individual legislators’ authority to continue to work on drafting, passing and enacting laws that restrict abortion services within the state.”   

Both Neiman and Rodriguez-Williams won their bids for reelection in November.   

Owens also found Wyoming Right to Life’s argument insufficient for the organization to intervene, saying the group can still advocate for and hold pro-life views regardless of the case’s outcome.   

State Not Doing Enough?  

To win the right to intervene, the lawmakers and Right to Life had to demonstrate that Wyoming wasn’t doing enough to defend its trigger law, which makes most abortions in Wyoming illegal on the June repeal of the 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision.  

They did not win that argument, Owens decided.   

The would-be intervenors disagreed with the methods of the Wyoming Attorney General’s office, saying that the state hasn’t given enough of its own evidence to rebut the plaintiffs’ claims that the abortion law could harm women or doctors or that it’s unconstitutional.   

“Although the applicants and the state defendants appear to have a different opinion over their litigation tactics in this case,” wrote Owens, “their objectives are the same.”   

The state’s attorney in the case, Jay Jerde, told the court during the Nov. 28 intervenor hearing that the state didn’t oppose the intervention but disagreed with notions that it isn’t defending its law adequately.   

Law Still Asleep  

Earlier in the case, Judge Owens blocked state authorities from enforcing the abortion ban, saying there is a question as to whether the Wyoming Constitution equates abortion with health care. 

She pronounced a strong leaning toward that conclusion. 

The Constitution guarantees state citizens the right to make their own health care decisions.   

Abortion is still legal in Wyoming. 

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter