Vastly Outnumbered, Wyoming House Dems Still Bring Back Bill To Protect Abortion

Despite the Legislature passing by an overwhelming margin last year two bills that prohibit most forms of abortion in Wyoming and being outnumbered 57-5, House Democrats are bringing back a bill to protect abortion.

LW
Leo Wolfson

January 23, 20245 min read

State Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson
State Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson (Getty Images)

State Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson, said that despite Wyoming House Republicans outnumbering Democrats 57-5, he’s optimistic that many of his colleagues will see abortion in a different light than they did a year ago when they passed a pair of laws banning the practice.

Abortion is a hot-button issue that’s often politicized as Democrats being in favor of it and Republicans against, Yin said, adding that it doesn’t have to be.

“It doesn’t have to be very partisan,” he said. “If they think of it in the interest of the Wyoming spirit of independence and individual rights as a whole, they should vote to support this bill.”

On Monday, Yin and the Democratic Caucus of the Legislature announced the introduction of the Reproductive Freedom Act, a bill that, if passed, would codify the right to abortion in Wyoming.

The bill is being introduced on the anniversary of the 1973 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which ruled the Constitution generally protected the right to have an abortion. It’s the ruling the Supreme Court overturned in June 2022, making the legality of abortion a state’s rights issue.

Tough Sledding

Yin’s legislation, House Bill 76, will face an epic uphill battle to pass the Legislature and without a governor’s veto when lawmakers reconvene next month. He brought a similar bill in 2023 with little success.

The Legislature actually went in the opposite direction in last year’s session, passing the Life is a Human Right Act, a bill that banned most forms of abortion in Wyoming. It passed by a 25-5 vote in the Senate and 49-10 vote in the House.

Gov. Mark Gordon allowed it to pass into law without his signature while verbally expressing a pro-life stance.

Another bill prohibiting the use of medication to facilitate an abortion also passed along similar margins, with Gordon signing it into law.

Both laws are currently being challenged in court and have been paused at least until a definitive legal ruling is made on their constitutionality.

Rep. Jeanette Ward, R-Casper, said Yin’s bill contradicts the two bills that had overwhelming support last year.

“A radical judge who thinks she can legislate from the bench unlawfully put a TRO (temporary restraining order) on those laws,” she said, adding that Yin’s abortion bill “is dead on arrival in the Wyoming House.”

What It Does

Yin’s bill prohibits the state from denying or interfering with a person's decision to have an abortion until the viability of the fetus, codifying the previous standard set by Roe v. Wade, which is recognized under Wyoming law until the lawsuit is resolved.

Ward, who also is a doula, opposes Yin’s legislation, saying a conceived baby is “worthy of protection from murder.”

“It is scientific fact that life begins at conception,” Ward said. “It is shocking that a party who claims to be so committed to ‘science’ can imply or claim otherwise.”

In a press release, Yin said the viability standard prevents situations like what happened to Texas resident Kate Cox, who was denied by her state to have the abortion she wanted because her fetus had a genetic condition that causes severe developmental problems and an extremely low chance of survival.

“By enshrining the viability standard, the Reproductive Freedom Act will ensure that the state of Wyoming cannot place the citizens of Wyoming in similar medical jeopardy,” Yin said.

One of the key aspects of the ongoing lawsuit is whether abortion should be considered health care under the Wyoming Constitution. Although Yin’s bill doesn’t explicitly address this, it does say that abortion is to be considered within a health care provider’s “scope of practice.”

The bill also states that no person or private medical facility shall be required by law or contract to perform abortions and discriminated against in employment or professional privileges for refusing to do so. It also reaffirms the right of all patients to access comprehensive reproductive health care services.

Invites Out

Yin said he only has the co-sponsorship of his five fellow Democratic House members at this time, but he invites any of his Republican colleagues who want to sign on.

Five Republicans voted against the Life is a Human Right Act in the House and three voted against it in the Senate in 2023. No Republicans co-sponsored Yin’s bill last year.

“I would be happy to extend an invitation out to any of my fellow Republicans who are interested in protecting a woman’s right to abortion up to viability,” he said.

In the unlikely scenario his bill passes and Gordon doesn’t veto it, Yin said it would render the ongoing lawsuit involving the Life is a Human Right Act moot as the plaintiffs would no longer need to challenge it.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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LW

Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter