Rep. Martha Lawley (R-Worland). Photo by Matt Idler

Chemical Abortion Ban Clears First House Vote After Lengthy Debate  

in News/Legislature

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By Clair McFarland, General Assignment Reporter

The Wyoming House of Representatives on Monday approved the first reading of a bill outlawing chemical abortions.   

Senate File 109 would make it a misdemeanor to prescribe or dispense abortion drugs in Wyoming, except in cases of rape, incest, or severe health risks.    

The bill passed the House with ease, after adopting some – but not all – amendments offered by the House Revenue Committee late last week.    

One amendment adopted specifies that the drugs in the bill outlawed for abortion would still legal for other medical purposes.    

Misoprostol Needed Elsewhere   

Another amendment, that would have removed the induction drug misoprostol from the bill, did not pass the House despite the committee’s aye vote.    

Doctors pleaded with the Revenue Committee to remove misoprostol from drugs criminalized under the bill because they feared pharmacists would be too scared to stock it under the law, and they rely on it for many other purposes.    

Rep. Sarah Penn, R-Lander, argued that removing misoprostol from the list of forbidden abortion drugs would drive women to seek it for abortions. Though misoprostol typically is combined with other drugs to cause chemical abortions, said Penn, it can be used on its own as an abortion drug.    

She also said doctors can simply write diagnosis codes on future misoprostol orders to let pharmacists know they’re not facilitating abortions.    

Rep. Martha Lawley, R-Worland, agreed with Penn.    

“(Misoprostol) can be used alone, to cause a slower, more painful, more messy, more problematic induced abortion,” said Lawley. “The unintended consequence in taking it out is, we direct people toward that.”    

Rep. Ember Oakley, R-Riverton, defended the amendment, saying lawmakers should heed the doctors’ concerns about the bill’s chilling effect on what they considered to be a vital drug.    

“This is a request from our doctors who are on the ground, delivering babies,” said Oakley. “They’re saying please don’t include this (drug).”    

Rep. Bill Henderson, R-Cheyenne, said criminalizing the drug could have real-life consequences for people in health crises.    

Lawmakers opposing the amendment countered again, saying the earlier amendment exempting other medical purposes from prosecution under the bill negated the need to remove misoprostol.    

Vote No   

There were numerous other changes the committee approved for the bill that the House rejected Monday, at the urging of Revenue Committee Chair Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper.    

Harshman said it was awkward for him to speak against the amendments brought by his own committee, but he believed the final amendment had too many discussion themes encapsulated in it and should be parsed out into individually-brought amendments in later readings of the bill.    

Those included a bid to change the possible $9,000 fine down to a $750 fine, a change exempting women in near-death situations resulting from mental or emotional illnesses, and a change narrowing who could be charged under the bill.

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