It’s been a year since the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade and leaving abortion policy decisions to states.
A number of pro-life supporters celebrated the anniversary over the weekend both in Washington, D.C., and the Cowboy State.
A Year Of Change
It would be difficult to argue that the pro-life movement hasn’t had a successful year.
In the year since the decision, 20 states enacted laws banning or restricting abortion and six states have set gestational limits on the practice.
Although Wyoming was one of the states to enact a ban, a Teton County district court judge has temporarily blocked the Cowboy State’s newly passed medical and chemical abortion laws from going into effect.
During the 2023 session, Wyoming lawmakers passed bills prohibiting all abortions except in cases of rape or incest. Wyoming also became the first state to enact a chemical abortion ban prohibiting the sale, distribution or use of any pills for the purpose of causing abortions.
A Year Of Frustration
Teton County District Court Judge Melissa Owens blocking Wyoming’s abortion bans upsets state Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester.
“I’m very disappointed that it seems that judicial activism has circumvented the will of the people, through their elected legislators, by stopping our pro-life laws,” Biteman told Cowboy State Daily. “The district court judge is doing mental gymnastics stating that abortion is somehow health care.”
Owens has not ruled definitively on the laws, but has indicated throughout the recent challenges to abortion bans that she will define abortion as health care under the Wyoming constitution, which would make the bans illegal.
Biteman said if abortion is considered health care, “We as a society are in trouble.”
In a 2012 ballot referendum, Wyoming voters passed an amendment into the state Constitution amid criticism of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
The provision states every resident should have the right to make their own health care decisions, but it also gives the Legislature authority to restrict that autonomy in some cases.
State Rep. Sarah Penn, R-Riverton, told Cowboy State Daily she believes abortion is discrimination against babies. She said there’s “plenty more to do” to prevent the practice in Wyoming.
“The state has spoken and the Legislature is representing the will and desire of the people of Wyoming,” she said.
Penn said she believes a majority of the courts in Wyoming would not have ruled as Owens has.
The New York Times recently reported that at least 61 clinics around the nation stopped offering abortion services in the last year since Roe. v Wade was struck down.
The impact of the ruling has varied widely depending on whether a state’s laws allow abortions or not.
In the states with the strictest restrictions, average monthly abortions fell by 96%. Overall, they fell by about 3% in the nine months after the ruling, according to the Society of Family Planning.
Wellspring Health Access in Casper was one of only 29 new abortion facilities to open nationwide over the past year. The facility has been protested in Wyoming and even was the target of arson, which caused more than $200,000 in damage and delayed its opening by nearly a year.
Also doing abortions in Wyoming is the Women’s Health Center and Family Care Clinic in Jackson, which only offers chemical abortions.
In a Saturday statement, Wellspring described the overturn of Roe v. Wade as “devastating.”
“As a result of the Supreme Court's decision, approximately 25 million women now live in states where abortion is either banned or severely restricted,” the facility posted to Facebook on Saturday. “We cannot ignore the disproportionate impact this has on marginalized communities, who face even greater barriers to accessing safe and legal abortion care.
“At Wellspring Health Access, we stand firm in our commitment to fighting for abortion justice and providing high quality healthcare to those who need it.”
Joe Barbuto, chairman of the Wyoming Democratic Party, issued a similar statement Sunday.
“While radical in our state and nation continue their efforts to deny the rights of women, Wyoming Democrats stand with a majority of Americans who believe that the right to choose is fundamental, and that every woman should be able to make her own decisions when it comes to reproductive health care,” he said.
A 2022 University of Wyoming poll found that 35% of residents say abortion should be a personal choice, while another 19% say abortion should be allowed in other situations. A total of 36% say abortion should only be allowed in extreme cases and 7% say there is no situation where an abortion should be allowed.
According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, 62% of Americans said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, identical to their last poll, conducted in the days immediately following the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision in 2022.
Biteman, Secretary of State Chuck Gray, state Sen. Tim Salazar, R-Riverton, and Reps. Ocean Andrew, R-Laramie, and Penn attended a Students For Life of America rally pro-life rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial at the nation's capitol on Saturday, marking the first anniversary of the decision. Penn told Cowboy State Daily there were about 200-300 people at the event.
“It was encouraging to see all of the young people at the rally,” Biteman said. “They truly are the pro-life generation.”
In Cody, Wyoming Right To Life hosted an event outside the Park County Courthouse. Marti Halverson, president of the organization and a former state legislator, spoke, and a short march was held around a local park, where a few people rode in on horseback.
Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody, also participated in a virtual press conference for the Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America Women’s Caucus earlier in the week. The event was hosted by Republican strategist Kellyanne Conway, a former top aide to President Donald Trump, and SBA President Marjorie Dannenfelser.
Biteman said there were counter protestors at the Washington, D.C., event.
“They showed tremendous courage standing up to the counter protesters who were in their faces and trying to intimidate them,” he said. “The students didn’t get back down and uglier the left gets, the more it helps our cause.”
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.