Wyoming Becomes First State In The Nation To Ban Abortion Pills

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon touted his “strong pro-life record” after signing a ban on chemical abortions and allowing a broader abortion ban to become law without his signature, saying it invites lawsuits and is a poor substitute for a change to the state Constitution.

Clair McFarland

March 18, 20233 min read

Chemical abortions 3 18 23
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Wyoming’s governor signed a ban on chemical abortions Friday, but let another abortion ban become law without his signature.  

The state is now the first to explicitly ban pills for abortions – the method by which nearly all of its abortions occurred in 2021, and the majority in the two previous years.

Gov. Mark Gordon said in a statement that he signed Senate File 109, which bans chemical abortions, as a step “to implement a pro-life policy agenda.”  

But Gordon let House Bill 152, aka the Life Is A Human Right Act, become law without his signature. The gesture doesn’t change the force of the law but conveys the governor’s disapproval.  

Gordon expressed concern “that this new law will only result in a new lawsuit, which will delay any resolution to the constitutionality of the abortion ban in Wyoming.” 

HB 152 is a more-specific version of the 2022 trigger ban that “triggered” into effect to ban nearly all abortions after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade last June.  

Hours after the law went into effect, Teton County District Court Judge Melissa Owens blocked the trigger ban, saying it leaves uncertainties for doctors and mothers who abort babies in near-death situations. 

She also noted that it has not yet been decided whether abortion is a right under the Wyoming Constitution, which promises Wyoming residents the ability to make their own “health care” decisions.

Legal Challenge Already

Gordon said the plaintiffs challenging the trigger ban filed a new lawsuit against HB 152 on Friday.  

“Since the Legislature continues to make minor tweaks in the abortion law each year, it only leads to additional delays in obtaining a final decision from the courts about Wyoming’s Constitution,” reads Gordon’s statement. “If the Legislature wants finality it should put a constitutional amendment before the people and let them decide if they want to add an abortion ban to the state’s Constitution.” 

Though Wyomingites have the right to make their own health care decisions, the Constitution also says that the Legislature can regulate that right for the people’s general welfare.  

Gordon touted his signing of Senate File 109; Senate File 79, which makes a plan of safe care for newborns; and House Bill 4, which extends Medicaid postpartum coverage. He also signed last year’s trigger ban, and says he has a “strong pro-life record.”  

“I understand the Legislature’s effort to improve Wyoming’s pro-life legal framework and preemptively clarify some of these legal questions with (HB 152’s) various legislative findings,” said Gordon, adding that he believes the question should be “decided as soon as possible” through a constitutional amendment.  

While the Legislature can vote to send rewordings of the Constitution to an election, only a majority of voters can make such a change.  

HB 152 contains numerous legislative findings, or declarations by the Legislature, about the value and validity of unborn life. Gordon said he understands why the findings are in the bill, but feels they are no substitute for a people’s vote.  

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter