Two proposed abortion bans survived committee votes in the Wyoming Legislature on Thursday morning, but not without significant changes.
The House Revenue Committee altered and advanced Senate File 109, which would ban chemical abortions if it becomes law. Meanwhile, the Senate Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee changed and unanimously passed House Bill 152 – aka the Life Is A Human Right Act – which is a more specifically-worded redo of last year’s “trigger” abortion ban.
Rape And Incest.
The Senate Agriculture Committee added rape and incest exemptions into HB 152 at Senate President Ogden Driskill’s request. Driskill, a Republican from Devils Tower, told Cowboy State Daily previously that while most Wyomingites are pro-life, they have varying views on rape and incest exemptions for abortion bans.
Last year’s “trigger” ban on abortions is now paused by a court injunction because of possible constitutional issues. That ban contained rape and incest exemptions, but its sequel HB 152 did not when it was first penned.
HB 152 sponsor, House Majority Floor Leader Rep. Chip Neiman, R-Hulett, told the House during debate on the bill that the likely reason the state Attorney General’s office wasn’t defending the abortion ban from an equal protection perspective is because the trigger ban’s rape and incest exemptions would make such an argument hypocritical.
Findings – And Crago
The committee adopted another amendment offered by its chair, Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle, removing from the bill findings that critics deemed overbearing toward the judicial branch.
The findings, the critics said, could violate separation of powers principles.
Steinmetz also deleted “the Crago amendment” – language keeping the act from becoming effective unless and until the earlier trigger ban is found unconstitutional by the Wyoming Supreme Court.
Pro-life legislator Rep. Barry Crago, R-Buffalo, brought that change in the House amid fierce debate about the bill’s constitutionality.
If HB 152 survives its three readings in the Senate, the House still may choose not to concur with the changes made to it. If the House does not concur, lawmakers will appoint a panel to work through the changes and reach a compromise.
In the House Revenue Committee, lawmakers heard from three doctors who were concerned that SF 109, banning chemical abortions, would scare pharmacists out of stocking misoprostol, a drug used to induce labor, stop post-natal hemorrhages and for many other purposes.
Rep. Ember Oakley, R-Riverton, later voted in favor of the bill, but she proposed an amendment to the language of it to remove misoprostol from the list of outlawed abortion drugs. She also added text specifying that people prescribing or dispensing the drug “for other medical purposes” outside of abortion would not be subject to criminal charges.
Psychological Risk Of Death
Rep. Andrew Byron, R-Jackson, proposed to remove a portion of the bill that had prompted emotional debate within the committee. The bill said that women in danger of death can still receive abortion drugs, but doctors can’t prescribe abortion drugs for women claiming that psychological or emotional conditions are leading them to the point of death.
Rep. Tomi Strock, R-Douglas, questioned Byron.
“Why are you wanting to scratch this out?” she asked.
“I think we’re really getting into the weeds here when you talk about the mental health of these women,” said Byron.
Oakley said that whether it’s mental or physical dangers that put a woman at risk of death, doctors should be the one to make that call.
Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette, bristled, saying doctors have spoken to the media admitting that they’ll take advantage of exceptions like those to perform abortions.
Committee Chair Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, countered, saying that “psychological, emotional conditions are real. When you’re in them, they’re real.”
Bear said he agrees that psychological conditions are real, “but to allow that to lead to the destruction of a life?”
SF 109 would make prescribing drugs to cause abortions as a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and $750 in fines.
The original fine penalty was $9,000 in fines, but Byron proposed an amendment, he said, to make it more consistent with the rest of Wyoming’s misdemeanor laws.
In Wyoming typically six-month jail sentences have an accompanying possibility of $750 in fines.