Wyoming Supreme Court Declines To Hear Abortion Lawsuit

Abortion remains legal in Wyoming as challenge to states trigger ban law sent back to Teton County court.

Clair McFarland

December 23, 20223 min read

People rally for and against abortion outside the Wyoming Capitol in Cheyenne.
People rally for and against abortion outside the Wyoming Capitol in Cheyenne. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

The Wyoming Supreme Court has declined to decide at this time whether Wyoming’s trigger ban outlawing nearly all abortions is constitutional. 

A state law banning all abortions except in cases of severe health risks, rape and incest went into effect for a few hours in July before Teton County District Court Judge Melissa Owens blocked its enforcement during a legal case against it. 

A pro-choice coalition had sued Wyoming at that time, saying the trigger ban violates the Wyoming Constitution’s guarantee of “health care” autonomy for residents.

Because the case is ongoing the law is still paused; abortion remains legal in Wyoming. 

Lack Of Facts

The state appealed the case to the Wyoming Supreme Court. Despite the pro-abortion group’s objections, Owens sent the case to the high court Nov. 30, saying she “does not find any Wyoming Supreme Court precedent addressing the questions of law to be answered.”  

The Wyoming Supreme Court on Dec. 20 volleyed, deciding not to hear the appeal due to a lack of facts upon which to rest a legal conclusion.

“This Court does not believe it can answer all twelve certified questions on the limited factual record provided,” reads the declination order.  

Plaintiffs’ attorney John Robinson could not be reached by phone and did not respond to an email Thursday afternoon. 

Back Down

The high court’s refusal to decide the case sends the issue back to Teton County District Court.

Owens likely will have to decide whether the state’s trigger ban is constitutional following a trial. She has indicated in past rulings in the case that the trigger ban is constitutionally dubious.    

Parties may appeal again after the trial.  

Roe Vs. Wade Overturned

The U.S. Constitution doesn’t grant a right to abortion, the U.S. Supreme Court decided this summer when it overturned landmark 1973 abortion-rights case Roe Vs. Wade. 

The move sparked legal questions in states trying to pass anti-abortion laws within the confines of their own state constitutions.  

The coalition suing Wyoming includes a pregnant woman, two obstetricians, a child-bearing-age practicing Jewish woman, an abortion clinic and an abortion funding group, who together claimed that a ban on abortions could infringe on their rights or put them in harm’s way.  

Besides pleading constitutional qualms, the plaintiffs also claim the trigger ban violates Wyomingites’ right to privacy.

Wyoming’s attorneys in court arguments have countered, saying the plaintiffs are trying to conjure constitutional rights that aren’t outlined in the state’s Constitution.    

Share this article



Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter