Nearly a year has passed since a masked and hooded arsonist lugged a red fuel tank into Wellspring Health Access and lit the aspiring abortion and gender-change treatment clinic on fire, so the Casper Police Department has increased its reward offer from $5,000 to $15,000.
Wellspring Health Access, a new abortion clinic scheduled to open soon in Casper, had originally planned to open in June of 2022. The opening was delayed when an unknown arsonist set fire to the building May 25, 2022.
Transgender Hormones, Counseling
The clinic plans to offer abortion and treatments relating to gender transition, but will not be performing gender transition surgeries, founder Julie Burkhart told Cowboy State Daily last year. She said at the time that clinic organizers plan to offer counseling and hormone treatments to transgender people, but to refer people seeking surgeries to outside surgeons.
The community has not given up the arsonist’s identity.
“We know there is someone out there with information about who committed this crime,” said Lt. Jeff Bullard of the Casper Police Department in a Friday statement. “Someone either has to recognize the person in these pictures or has firsthand knowledge of what happened that night.”
The arsonist appears female in the photographs and video accompanying the department’s press release. She has dark hair and is wearing a mask and dark hood in the photographs. In one photograph she appears to be smiling or gritting her teeth, opening a red fuel tank.
The department increased its reward for information leading to the arsonist’s apprehension and prosecution, from $5,000 to $10,000.
‘Regardless Of The Target’
Casper’s legislative elections last autumn revealed it as a pro-life majority region. One Casper district ousted a pro-choice Republican, Rep. Pat Sweeney, in the August primary election, favoring pro-lifer Rep. Bill Allemand instead.
The town also sent social conservative Republican Rep. Jeanette Ward to the Legislature this year, after Ward battled the Natrona County School Board for harboring in one of its high schools a book that contained transgender sex scene photographs.
Bullard addressed the possible ideology clash between Wellspring and the community it hopes to serve.
“It’s important to recognize that, regardless of the target, or their reasons for starting the fire, the arsonist(s) put members of our community in direct peril,” he said. “First responders, including firefighters, police officers, and paramedics, were immediately exposed to the dangers of extinguishing the fire and preventing its spread to neighboring buildings.”
Bullard said tenants of a neighboring apartment complex “were callously placed in harm’s way.” Only first-responders’ “rapid response” kept everyone out of danger, he added.
The department also has established a tip line specific to the arson: 307-920-2862, or the email, PDTips@casperwy.gov.
Anonymous tipsters cannot claim the reward, the statement says.
Wellspring Health Access did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Meanwhile At The Capitol
Wellspring’s opening could be further complicated by the likelihood that two new abortion bans will become law this week. One of the bans criminalizes the prescribing or selling of chemicals to induce abortions, making it a misdemeanor chargeable per offense.
Another ban is a more specifically-worded reworking of an abortion ban that went into effect last year when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade. Though the earlier abortion ban is blocked from enforcement currently by Teton County District Court, the new ban aims to address many of the court’s concerns that the earlier law was overbroad.
Wellspring Health Access is one of multiple plaintiffs currently suing Wyoming for its earlier abortion ban.