Opposite, Partisan Abortion Bills Vie For Attention In Wyoming Legislature

Abortion debate expected to heat up as legislators consider polar-opposite bills. One would remove the states abortion trigger ban while the other would outlaw abortion-inducing drugs in nearly all uses.

Clair McFarland

January 16, 20235 min read

Abortion rally in laramie in june 2022 1 15 23
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

With about two weeks until the deadline to introduce new bills in the Wyoming House and Senate, two early abortion bills are vying for the same attention on completely different grounds.  

House Bill 117, sponsored by House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Mike Yin, of Jackson, would undo Wyoming’s trigger ban.  

And Senate File 109, sponsored by Sen. Tim Salazar, R-Riverton, would outlaw chemical abortions, which in Wyoming’s current practice includes virtually all abortions.   

State Sen. Tim Salazar, R-Riverton, left, and Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson.

‘Back To Where We Were’ 

The trigger ban is a prohibition on nearly all abortions enacted after the U.S. Supreme Court last summer declared that Americans do not have a constitutional right to abortion.  

Hours after the Supreme Court’s decision, the trigger ban became unenforceable, as a Teton County District Court judge paused the Wyoming law in response to a lawsuit challenging it while contemplating whether abortion is a guaranteed “health care” right under the Wyoming Constitution.  

“I wanted to make a very simple bill that would only put us back to where we were right before the trigger ban was enacted,” Yin told Cowboy State Daily. “I wanted to make sure it didn’t seem like I was sneaking in anything at all; I just put in exactly the language we had before.”  

Wyoming law before the trigger ban, and as it is practiced during the court’s injunction, allows for abortions up to a point of fetal “viability,” and in cases of rape, incest or severe health or death risks to the mother.  

The trigger ban also contains exemptions for rape, incest, death and health risks, but otherwise would ban abortions altogether.  

‘Health Care Debate’ 

Judge Melissa Owens, in whose court the case is pending after the Wyoming Supreme Court declined in December to hear it, indicated in a preliminary order on the case that abortion could be seen as “health care” under the state constitution, as the plaintiffs are insisting.  

Yin said he agrees.  

“I think the health care section in our constitution, our state constitution is pretty clear, and I do think that this falls under that,” he said. “So I think the easiest thing to make it so we use less of the court’s time is to just put it back to where we were – which was constitutional.”  

The bill’s co-sponsors include Democratic Reps. Karlee Provenza and Trey Sherwood, both of Laramie, and Sens. Chris Rothfuss, of Laramie, and Mike Gierau, of Jackson.  

Abortion Pills Ban 

Salazar, whose bill Senate File 109 also is vying for the Legislature’s attention this session, did not return a Friday request for comment.  

The bill would outlaw all transfer, possession, manufacture and use of all abortion drugs or chemical abortions in Wyoming, except in the case of medical treatment of miscarriages and scenarios with injury and death risks.  

Those risks, the bill specifies, would not include “any psychological or emotional conditions.”  

No chemical abortions are to be performed, the bill continues, as a result of a woman’s threat of self harm.  

Doctors and other people who violate the bill could be found guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in  jail and a fine of $9,000.  

A woman who has a chemical abortion would not be criminal prosecuted under the law, the bill says.  

Virtually All Of Them 

Abortion drugs drew national attention after the Supreme Court’s decision last summer, with President Joe Biden pushing to make the drugs more available, and some Planned Parenthood clinics declining to distribute them to women from trigger-ban or anti-abortion states.  

In 2021, there were 98 abortions in Wyoming, and all 98 were chemical abortions. In 2020, 88 of 91 abortions were chemically induced, and in 2019, the figure was 31 of 31.   

Heavily Co-Sponsored 

Salazar’s bill is heavily co-sponsored, entirely by Republicans, including Sens. Bo Biteman (Ranchester), Brian Boner (Douglas), Evie Brennan (Cheyenne), Sen. Dan Dockstader (Afton), Tim French (Powell), Dan Furphy (Laramie), Lynn Hutchings (Cheyenne), Bob Ide (Casper), John Kolb (Rock Springs), Dan Laursen (Powell), Troy McKeown (Gillette), Wendy Schuler (Evanston) and Cheri Steinmetz (Lingle).  

On the House side, co-sponsors include Reps. Bill Allemand (Casper), Ocean Andrew (Laramie), Abby Angelos (Gillette), Dalton Banks (Cowley), John Bear (Gillette), Bob Davis (Baggs), Jeremy Haroldson (Wheatland), Ben Hornok (Cheyenne), Mark Jennings (Sheridan), Christopher Knapp (Gillette), Tony Locke (Casper), Majority Floor Leader Chip Neiman (Hulett), Kevin O’Hearn (Mills), Jared Olsen (Cheyenne), Pepper Ottman (Riverton), Ken Pendergraft (Sheridan), Sarah Penn (Lander), Rachel Rodriguez-Williams (Cody), Daniel Singh (Cheyenne), Allen Slagle (Newcastle), Scott Smith (Lingle), Clarence Styvar (Cheyenne), Tamara Trujillo (Cheyenne), Jeanette Ward (Casper) and Art Washut (Casper).  

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter