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abortion

“Cards Against Humanity” Game Creator To Send Wyomingites’ Money To Pro-Abortion Group

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

The makers of an adult party game are using profits from Wyoming customers to support pro-abortion causes, the game company announced this month.   

Cards Against Humanity is a 2010 game in which players try to win the most votes from other players by combining phrase-bearing cards to create risqué, offensive, funny or incongruous sentences.   

The makers of the game announced Aug. 9 that for game orders from states with anti-abortion laws, they would send all profits to the National Network of Abortion Funds.    

“Your state sucks,” begins the public statement, which then addresses customers in Wyoming and 22 other states with pro-life legislatures.    

The game makers announced the release of “new packs,” or new versions of the game.    

“But while the packs were being printed, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and your state immediately turned itself into a dystopian forced-birth hellscape,” the statement reads, later calling the Supreme Court justices who overturned the historic abortion-rights case “ghoulish theocrats.”   


Cards Against Humanity screenshot

A link embedded in the press release leads to additional information, including surveys from pro-life states regarding how citizens in those states reportedly perceive abortion and various sex issues. That page concludes by urging the reader to vote “this fall,” then says, “Okay, time for some casual sex.”     

‘Just Evil’   

To one of Wyoming’s leading pro-life legislators, the statement by Cards Against Humanity seemed to go against humanity.    

Rep. Chip Neiman, R-Hulett, helped craft Wyoming’s trigger ban which would outlaw abortion in the state. Neiman has petitioned Teton County District Court as an intervenor to defend the abortion ban in a lawsuit against it. The court paused the law Aug. 10, and is contemplating whether it the ban will be allowed under the Wyoming Constitution.   

Neiman said the idea of a lewd card game using its profits to expand abortion access strikes him as “abhorrent.”   

“Why do people have to be so nasty? It’s just evil,” he said. “Is there always a potential to find a new level of low in how we treat women and human beings in general?”   

One of the tenets of Neiman’s intervenor request is an argument that abortion actually harms women, rather than helps them. He said the Cards Against Humanity announcement merely galvanizes his mission to protect the state’s trigger ban.    

“It just reminds me how important this is – what we’re standing up for,” he said. “It tells me we have a very real battle here and we need to continue to stand up for what’s right, what’s just, what’s pure and what’s true.”    

The other states addressed in the Cards against Humanity announcement were Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin.    

Nine of those have total abortion bans, that is, laws against abortion without exceptions for rape or incest. Those are Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin.   

Wyoming’s trigger ban contains exceptions for rape and incest, but those exceptions may have crippled the state’s arguments in defense of it. 

One of the attorneys arguing against the abortion ban told Teton County District Court Judge Melissa Owens on Aug. 9 – the same day the game makers’ statement was issued – that the state couldn’t defend the ban by arguing for a fetal right to life, because the rape and incest exceptions would make the concept of inherent, universal fetal life rights illogical.    

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Pro-life Legislators, Group Ask To Defend Wyoming Trigger Ban, Say AG Hasn’t Done Enough

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

Saying the state isn’t representing the pro-life argument fully in a lawsuit against its abortion ban, two state representatives and one anti-abortion organization have asked to join the lawsuit challenging the ban’s legality.     

State Representatives Chip Neiman, R-Hulett, and Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody – along with Wyoming Right to Life – on Tuesday asked a Wyoming judge to let them intervene in the lawsuit so they may help defend the state’s law.   

Wyoming had a trigger ban, or law outlawing nearly all abortions, go into effect in late July for a few hours before Teton County District Court Judge Melissa Owens paused it. Owens issued a preliminary injunction against the law on Aug. 10, so she could consider abortion advocates’ case against it.  

The case is expected to be appealed to the Wyoming Supreme Court regardless of Owens’ final decision on whether it fits the state’s Constitution.    

Owens said in her preliminary injunction order that she may interpret a Wyoming Constitution reference to “healthcare” to include abortion. The same section promises individuals the right to make their own healthcare decisions.     

Rodriguez-Williams was the main sponsor on Wyoming’s embattled abortion ban. Neiman was a co-sponsor.    

To join the case as intervenors, the group must prove that they have an interest in it, that their interests aren’t already being represented in full, and that they have an argument that won’t be heard without them, according to the group’s Tuesday filing in Teton County District Court.    

Fetal Life   

It is the responsibility of the Wyoming Attorney General to defend Wyoming’s abortion ban.   

The AG’s special assistant Jay Jerde has argued on the state’s behalf in Owens’ court, but his argument primarily has been that the state Constitution does not grant a right to abortion access.  

Jerde has not argued for a right to fetal life.

One of the plaintiffs’ attorneys challenging the law, Marci Bramlet, told Owens in court that Jerde doesn’t argue for fetal life because it would be illogical; since Wyoming’s abortion ban has exceptions for cases of rape and incest. Those exceptions were added in a Senate amendment after the ban had cleared the state House.

“Is the (state’s) interest so compelling that it only extends to children conceived under certain circumstances and the rest are – what? – not worthy of such protection?” Bramlet asked in an Aug. 9 hearing after which Owens decided to pause the law’s implementation.    

The pro-life group’s Tuesday filing expresses concern over the state arguing on “strictly legal” grounds rather than for women’s and fetal wellbeing.    

They started the intervention request process “once they became aware of the lawsuit and realized that their interest would not be fully and adequately represented by any existing parties,” the filing says.    

“The record is also bereft of any evidence to show the harms to women and unborn children posed by abortion itself,” the filing states.    

Doctors And Laws   

Owens’ main concern before pausing the law and taking up the case against it was that doctors would be wrongly prosecuted after making snap decisions to perform an abortion to save a mother’s life.    

Although the law would make performing an abortion a felony punishable by up to 14 years in prison, it contains exceptions for cases involving a risk of death or severe health issues.    

Owens said these exceptions did not properly provide for doctors’ judgment in those situations.    

The pro-life group’s intervention request counters that finding, saying that the law can’t be called “vague” because an understanding of doctors’ right to make medical judgments is so ingrained in Wyoming legal interpretation, it is “contained and defined in Wyoming’s Civil Pattern Jury Instructions.”    

The intervention request was filed Tuesday by Denise M. Harle, attorney and director of the Center for Life in the nonprofit group Alliance Defending Freedom, and by Cheyenne-based attorney Frederick J. Harrison.    

“The state of Wyoming is eager to protect life and uphold its law that seeks to preserve the lives of children and support mothers,” Harle said in a prepared statement. “Women deserve real health care, unborn babies deserve a chance to live, and states like Wyoming deserve the long-awaited opportunity to affirm that life is a human right.”

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Abortion In Wyoming Will Continue; Judge Calls Abortion “Healthcare”

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

After pausing Wyoming’s abortion ban in late July for two weeks, Judge Melissa Owens now has placed a preliminary injunction on the law that could last months or years while the case against it wages on.    

“A decision to have an abortion is a health care decision” is a likely finding under the Wyoming Constitution, Owens announced in her ruling.  

Owens’ order bars authorities like prosecutors and police from enforcing Wyoming’s abortion ban while it is being litigated.    

She wrote in her ruling that the plaintiffs, a pro-abortion coalition suing the state of Wyoming, demonstrated to the court that allowing the abortion ban to function during the case against it could cause “irreparable injury” to at least one of the plaintiffs. The group includes a woman in her second trimester of pregnancy who was reportedly concerned about not having access to an abortion in a critical situation due to the law’s potential uncertainties for doctors having to make snap decisions.    

“(The abortion ban) may force Ms. Johnson, as a currently pregnant woman, to delay or be denied evidence based medical care in the event of an unforeseen condition… or a fetal abnormality incompatible with life,” Owens said in her ruling.    

Another “irreparable harm” Owens identified relates to two obstetrician/gynecologists among the plaintiffs, who may be reluctant to help a woman in a critical situation out of fear for prosecution.   

The judge said in the ruling and in previous announcements from the bench that if there had been a provision in the law allowing for doctors’ “appropriate medical judgment” to function in such situations, she would have found the law’s immediate implementation less harmful.    

“The statute lacks any guidance on the providers (sic) use of medical judgment,” Owens wrote.    

‘Health Care Decision’   

Owens also granted the preliminary injunction because, she wrote, the plaintiffs made “a clear showing of probable success” for their case going forward.    

In his arguments in defense of Wyoming’s law, the state’s attorney Jay Jerde countered plaintiffs by saying there’s not a probability of success for the case because abortion access isn’t given by the Wyoming Constitution as a fundamental right.    

There are three tenets of the state’s Constitution, however, that could support an argument against the abortion ban going forward, Owens said in her ruling.   

One of those is Article 1, Section 38, originally enacted to combat mandates in the Affordable Care Act. The section states that Wyomingites have the right to make their own “healthcare” decisions.    

“Reasonable persons could consistently and predictably agree that an abortion is a procedure, usually provided by a medical professional, that impacts a woman’s physical, mental, or emotional well-being,” wrote Owens. “The court could find that the decision to have or not have an abortion procedure is unambiguously a health care decision.”    

A Woman   

Another of the constitutional supports is Article 1, Section 3, said Owens, which supports equal protection under the law. Wyoming’s abortion ban uses the word “woman” twice, which plaintiffs’ attorneys argued would make it a legislation targeting women.    

“The statute restricts a woman’s right to make their own health care decisions during pregnancy and discriminates against women on the basis of their sex,” wrote Owens. “The statute dilutes the rights available to women in making decisions regarding their health care and whether or not to give birth to a child.”    

The third constitutional argument against the ban, Owens ruled, is that the law itself could be “unconstitutionally vague” in a way that might lead to the violation of individual rights.    

Uncertainties about how women asking for abortions would clarify that they’ve been victims of rape or incest bothered Owens the most, she said in court and reiterated in her order.    

Ban Aborted   

The ban, which would have made performing an abortion a felony except in cases of rape, incest, and severe health or death risks was codified on July 27 but only survived for a few hours before Owens placed a temporary restraining order on it.    

That restraining order expired Wednesday at noon. Owens’ preliminary injunction order to block the law for a longer period entered the office of the Teton County Clerk of District Court at almost the exact moment its predecessor expired.  

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Wyoming Judge To Decide On Abortion Ban By Wednesday Noon

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By Clair McFarland
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

Wyoming District Court Judge Melissa Owens said Tuesday she would decide by Wednesday at noon whether she’d prolong her block on the state’s abortion ban.      

The judge said she needed more time to research the legal issues surrounding her order and contemplate whether the law is constitutional.    

A group of pro-abortion plaintiffs argued in a hearing Tuesday in Teton County District Court that there are rights associated with abortion that should be seen as fundamental under the Wyoming Constitution.

The suit’s defendants, namely, authorities in the state of Wyoming, argued the exact opposite: that the Wyoming Legislature has the right to regulate abortion because it is not a fundamental right under the state’s constitution. In late June, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that abortion is not a right under the U.S. Constitution.      

The temporary restraining order Owens issued against the law late last month expires Wednesday at noon, the exact time by which she said she’d release her announcement – of whether the law will be blocked throughout the case against it.  

‘Woman’s Uterus Is Her Property’ 

John Robinson, who is representing plaintiffs in the case, argued Tuesday morning that Wyoming’s criminal abortion ban violates inherent rights such as the rights to privacy and property. As such, Robinson said, the state would have to demonstrate that it has a “compelling need” for its law and has narrowly tailored the law to fit that need.     

“There’s been nothing submitted by the state to show a compelling need,” said Robinson. “A woman’s uterus is her property, and the state doesn’t say it’s not.”      

Jay Jerde, the attorney for the state of Wyoming, argued against Robinson’s claim that abortion is associated with fundamental rights.      

“They’re talking about these allegedly fundamental rights that exist, and what they’re really saying is the right to abortion is fundamental, and it is not,” said Jerde.      

Right To Life
One argument often present in laymen’s abortion debates that was not used in court Tuesday was whether fetuses have a right to life.    

Marci Bramlet, an attorney for the plaintiffs, theorized that Jerde did not argue for the value of fetal life or fetal personhood because of the rape and incest exceptions built into Wyoming’s law against abortion.   

The law would make performing an abortion a felony except in cases of severe death or health risks, or rape or incest.    

Bramlet said the exceptions make it impossible to argue for a fetal right to life because the law treats some fetuses as more worthy of survival than others.    

“Is the (state’s) interest so compelling that it only extends to children conceived under certain circumstances and the rest are – what? – not worthy of such protection?” asked Bramlet, rhetorically.    

Similar arguments were posed by pro-life legislators when the rape and incest exceptions were added to the abortion ban by State Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander in late February.     

Those exceptions, said Bramlet, make it illogical for the state to argue for a universal, intrinsic value of fetal life.    

“Doesn’t that statement (of exception) completely undermine the compelling interest in a Wyoming citizen’s, presumably, this fetal right to be free from abortive measures?” she asked.    

‘Undermined The Support’   

In a Tuesday interview with Cowboy State Daily, Case said he had considered that the rape and incest exceptions he added to the law might undermine the law’s logical basis.   

“I could see where (the exceptions) undermined the support for the whole thing in terms of the logic of it,” Case said.    

But more than that, he saw it as a preservation of women’s “liberty,” he said.     

“I approach this from a liberty (angle),” said Case. “And I can’t even imagine the consequences of… seizing control over women’s bodies, which is the way I view this (ban).”   

Case said his goal was to get his fellow legislators to think about “the most abhorrent case” in which someone would be required to carry a child from rape or incest, then he could introduce the exceptions and weaken the law altogether.    

He also noted that there were pro-abortion lobbyists who were upset by his introduction of the exceptions. Case said they thought his amendments would make Gov. Mark Gordon less likely to veto the abortion ban. 

Case did not identify those activists.    

‘Healthcare’   

Jerde specifically addressed Wyoming Constitution Article I, Section 38, which promises Wyomingites the right to make their own healthcare decisions. He said the section naturally applies only to legal healthcare options.    

“Patients have the right to make their own decisions about what healthcare they’re going to pay for, but if a particular service isn’t legally available, Section 38 doesn’t give them the right to say ‘No, no. I want that even though it’s illegal,’” said Jerde.    

He also pointed to subsection C under the constitutional amendment, which says that the Legislature may regulate Wyomingites’ healthcare access.    

Severability   

Owens in July objected to the vagueness of the exceptions, particularly the law’s exception for life-threatening situations. The judge blocked the abortion ban temporarily at that time because, she said, there was no guidance in the law on how a doctor should proceed if he or she hopes to make a judgment call to perform an abortion in a life-threatening pregnancy situation.    

Jerde during his own argument noted that Owens doesn’t have to block the abortion ban altogether: she can choose merely to block the parts she finds too vague, that is, the exceptions.    

Such an option, which Jerde called “severability” would leave the law with a full ban on all abortions.    

He said that is an acceptable option for the state if the court would consider it.    

More Than Nine Months   

Owens responded, saying the exceptions “are giving me more trouble than anything,” presumably due to their vagueness on how to handle different critical situations.    

She also said different jurisdictions would inevitably handle the law differently given its vagueness.    

“Will all the county and town and city attorneys around the state handle the situation the same in the event of incest and rape? Will they require a police report? Will they require someone actually (be) charged? Someone actually convicted?” asked Owens. “As lawyers we know an actual conviction usually runs longer than a pregnancy.”    

Jerde said individuals in those varying situations could seek their own remedies through the courts systems, and he noted that variations among prosecutors in different jurisdictions are, to his understanding, common throughout criminal law.    

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Wyoming Abortion Advocates Ask Judge To Block Abortion Ban Longer

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
clair@cowboystatedaily.com

The abortion advocates suing Wyoming over its abortion ban asked a state court on Thursday to block the ban throughout the court proceedings. 

Judge Melissa Owens of Teton County District Court on July 27 announced a temporary pause on the state’s abortion ban for about two weeks while heading into a lawsuit contemplating whether the law fits the state’s constitution.  

The law, which would have made performing an abortion a felony, survived for only a few hours, as it became official the day Owens blocked it.  

‘Public Interest’ 

Saying they will suffer “irreparable harm” if the law is enforced, plaintiffs in the suit now are asking the abortion ban to be blocked throughout the case, in a preliminary injunction which could last several months.  

They also called Wyoming’s felony law against abortion a “discriminatory state (law) that perpetuate(s) stereotypes about women and their proper societal role; their right to bodily integrity and to be free from involuntary servitude.”  

Plaintiffs’ Thursday filing cited four main arguments supporting their plea to set the law aside throughout the case, as follows: 

· That the plaintiffs’ rights will be harmed without an injunction,
· That the state wouldn’t be as hurt by the injunction as the plaintiffs would be by the law itself,
· That the injunction is “in the public interest” as a defense of possible constitutional rights, and
· That the case against the law has a chance of winning in court.

The pro-abortion coalition is scheduled to argue their case against legal counsel for the state of Wyoming in the Jackson court on Aug. 9.  

The state, which had not filed a response as of Thursday morning, has until 5 p.m. Friday to respond to the plaintiffs’ motion.  Jay Jerde, the state’s attorney in the case, had argued in the July 27 hearing that keeping the law intact supports the public interest because Wyoming’s elected Legislature passed it. 

‘Harm Has Been Done’ 

Passed by the state Legislature in March, Wyoming’s law criminalizing abortion had exemptions for cases of rape, incest, and severe health or death risks to the pregnant woman.  

However, Owens in July cited “compelling arguments” for the temporary injunction suggesting the exemption language was too vague for decisive action when pregnancy complications threaten a woman’s life.   

An obstetrician “has no guidance. She has no way to know if she will be prosecuted,” said Owens at the time.  

“Does she pick up the phone and call her attorney? Does she wait for a prosecutor to charge… and wait for a trial?” 

“If she… is too fearful of prosecution (and) decides not to perform it,” continued Owens, “at that point the harm has been done.”  

The plaintiffs include: 

· Danielle Johnson, a Wyoming woman who was 22 weeks pregnant when the suit was filed and was reportedly concerned about the law preventing abortions in dangerous pregnancy situations,
· Kathleen Dow, a Laramie woman and a practicing conservative Jew who said her faith “requires” her to consider abortion in critical situations concerning either her physical or mental health in a future pregnancy,
· Giovannina Anthony, a women’s-health doctor,
· Renee Hinkle, another women’s-health doctor, and
· Circle of Hope Healthcare, the parent company of an abortion clinic trying to open in Casper.

The defendants include Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill, Teton County Sheriff Matthew Carr, and Jackson Police Chief Michelle Weber.   

Owens, the judge on the case, was appointed by Gordon in December. 

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Wyoming Court Halts Abortion Ban Temporarily, Weighs Whether Law Is Constitutional

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
clair@cowboystatedaily.com

A Wyoming judge on Wednesday halted Wyoming’s imminent abortion ban for the next two weeks. She will consider in mid-August whether to prolong the pause while deciding whether the ban is constitutional.   

Wyoming in March passed a trigger ban, that is, a law banning nearly all abortions following a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court declaring that abortion is not a right under the U.S. Constitution.    

The trigger ban was scheduled to become law Wednesday, following the June 24 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court relegating abortion policy decisions to the states. It would have made it a felony punishable by up to 14 years in prison to perform an abortion in Wyoming, except in cases of rape, incest, or severe health or death risks.    

Citing a risk of irreparable harm to individuals if the abortion ban is allowed to function, and a probability that the ban will be declared unconstitutional under the Wyoming Constitution, Judge Melissa Owens on Wednesday issued a temporary injunction, or halt, against the ban. She also took up the case challenging its constitutionality, and will hear arguments for a longer injunction Aug. 9, tentatively.    

A trial on the law’s constitutionality to determine whether there can be a permanent injunction against it, will be set for a later date.    

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, a defendant in the suit, appointed Owens to the Teton County District Court judgeship in December.   

‘Irreparable Injury’  

When she halted the anti-abortion law and banned all law enforcers and prosecutors in Wyoming from acting under it, Owens said the arguments presented by Dr. Giovannina Anthony, an obstetrician, and Danielle Johnson, the pregnant plaintiff, were the most compelling demonstrations that the law could cause “irreparable injury” if allowed to go into effect this week.    

Owens said she was concerned that the law didn’t give clear direction to doctors and patients on how to respond quickly in a life-threatening pregnancy situation.    

“The fact that someone currently pregnant (could) end up having a life-threatening complication and the new statute does not mention healthcare providers’ appropriate medical judgment, what the… statute did creates an ambiguity, not only for Dr. Anthony but for the patient,” she said.    

Irreparable injury is just one of the concepts the plaintiffs needed to prove to receive the injunction. They also had a burden to show the court that their case had a probability of success.   

Owens decided that it does, but clarified that a case’s need to be heard doesn’t dictate its final outcome at this early stage.    

Healthcare   

The crux of the argument foreshadowed Wednesday is whether abortion is a form of healthcare.    

In the Wyoming Constitution’s Article One, Section 38, Wyomingites are promised the right to make their own healthcare decisions.    

“This case does involve healthcare,” said John Robinson, the plaintiff’s attorney representing a pro-abortion group, abortion providers, a woman suing for a right to family planning and a woman who is 22-weeks pregnant and is concerned that the ban would frighten her doctor from performing a necessary abortion to save her life during a medical crisis.    

“As of the morning we filed, every woman in Wyoming had these fundamental rights (including) quality, uniform operation of the law, privacy, bodily integrity, conscience, healthcare decisions about intimate matters and the composition of her family,” Robinson said. “These rights will no longer exist absent action from this court.”    

Robinson argued further that the purpose of a temporary injunction is to preserve the status quo for the people affected by a law upsetting that status quo, while a legal issue is weighed in court. He said that because abortion has been protected as a right for so long, allowing it is the status quo.    

Created Equal   

Robinson quoted the Declaration of Independence in the final moments of his argument.    

“We hold these truths to be self-evident,” Robinson said. “That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”    

Robinson then referenced the foundational statement’s role in a court case that evoked it to establish a right of parental autonomy over children.    

He said that parental autonomy, the right “to rear children” should also elevate the rights of mothers, husbands, children and other family members affected by a delay in securing an abortion when a pregnancy becomes harmful, because, he said, all those affected are someone’s child.    

“We are talking about family, and we are talking about imposing a moral view concerning protecting fetal life at the cost of not just prison, the cost of health, suffering,” he said.    

No Such Right   

In his rebuttal argument Jay Jerde, the state’s attorney in the case, said that the plaintiffs made lengthy anecdotal arguments about possible irreparable harms under the trigger ban, but failed to show a probability of success for their case going forward because, he argued, the Wyoming Constitution doesn’t confer an explicit or implicit right to abortion.    

Jerde noted that the document’s section on healthcare rights was ratified by voters to push back against the Obama-era Affordable Healthcare Act.   

Owens countered later that in looking at the state Constitution, judges are to deduce the effect of the language rather than the mindset of the voters who ratified it.    

“(The abortion ban) does not infringe upon any of the plaintiffs’ alleged state constitutional rights, or the right to abortion,” said Jerde, “because no such right exists. You can’t infringe what isn’t there.”   

Jerde said a second component the plaintiffs failed to show was demonstrating how the trigger ban, specifically, infringes on a constitutional right.     

The Wyoming Legislature passed its trigger ban in a lawful exercise of its elected power, Jerde continued, and therefore it serves the public’s interest.     

While still a territory in 1869, Wyoming banned abortions. For the next 100 years, roughly, the state kept abortion illegal until the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision compelled states to treat abortion as a federal right.  Jerde used these facts to argue that pro-life, not pro-abortion policies are Wyoming’s natural state, or status quo.    

Jerde refuted Robinson’s right-to-privacy and bodily autonomy arguments with respect to abortion, noting that those are federal concepts that were overturned in June by the high court.    

The Parties   

The temporary injunction comes following a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Teton County District Court, asking for a pause and eventual overturn of Wyoming’s trigger ban. The plaintiffs include Johnson and Anthony, as well as abortion-funding and support organization Chelsea’s Fund; abortion provider Circle of Hope Healthcare, which is attempting to open an abortion clinic in Casper; Dr. Renee Hinkle, an obstetrician and gynecologist; and Kathleen Dow, a law student at the University of Wyoming College of Law.    

Dow’s complaint in the suit is that she is a reproductive-age woman and a lifelong practicing and conservative Jew who “intends to continue practicing her faith,” which “requires her to consider abortion as an available health care alternative in the event of pregnancy conditions which threaten her health,” the suit alleges.    

Plaintiffs filed their suit against Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, Attorney General Bridget Hill, Teton County Sheriff Matthew Carr, and Jackson Police Chief Mechelle Weber.   

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Pro-Choice Groups Sue Wyoming, Ask Judge To Halt Ban That Starts Wednesday

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

A contingent of abortion providers and abortion-funding groups on Monday asked Wyoming’s court system to halt the state’s imminent ban on abortion and furthermore, to declare it unconstitutional.   

If the court doesn’t grant the injunction, performing an abortion in Wyoming will, by this Wednesday, be a felony punishable by up to 14 years in prison, except in cases of rape, incest, and severe health or death risks to the mother.   

“Some women may be forced to forego educational opportunities, face decrease opportunities to fulfill their economic potential, and may be more likely to experience economic insecurity and raise their children in poverty due to the Wyoming Criminal Abortion Ban,” reads the complaint filed Monday in Teton County District Court.  

The complaint alleges further that the abortion ban will hinder doctors from helping women with dangerous pregnancy complications for fear of being prosecuted, and that it will harm women’s health and financial stability.  

Constitutional Claim 

The lawsuit states that the Wyoming Constitution provides for abortion access because of a 2012 measure passed by voters to combat Obamacare, or Affordable Health Care Act provisions.  

“Each competent adult shall have the right to make his or her own health care decisions,” reads Section 38 of the Wyoming Constitution.  

However, subsection c of the section states that “The Legislature may determine reasonable and necessary restrictions on the rights granted under this section to protect the health and general welfare of the people or to accomplish the other purposes set forth in the Wyoming Constitution.”  

The caveat in subsection c could give pro-life groups a counter-battle in lawsuits surrounding abortion, according to Marti Halverson, president of Wyoming Right to Life. Halverson had spoken at length of the clause and its facets during a speech Friday at the Save Wyoming political rally featuring Republican political candidates in Lander.  

Wyoming statute does not define abortion as a type of “health care.” In other states with permissive abortion statutes such as Colorado, however, abortion is defined as a type of “reproductive health care.” 

Those filing suit include: 

  • Danielle Johnson, who is 22 weeks pregnant, and, the document states, is concerned she wouldn’t be able to get an abortion in Wyoming if her baby has lethal complications;  
  • Kathleen Dow, who had an abortion previously “to protect herself after becoming pregnant in an abusive relationship;”  
  • Obstetrics specialist Dr. Giovannina Anthony, of Jackson, Wyoming, who last year performed “dozens” of Wyoming’s nearly 100 abortions; 
  • Obstetrics specialist Dr. Rene Hinkle, who, the pleading states, would “have to stop offering elective second trimester terminations for pregnancies that are found to have lethal fetal complications; 
  • Chelsea’s Fund, which is a funding and information assistance group that seeks to enable Wyoming and Idaho women to access abortion services; 
  • And Circle of Hope, the abortion provider led by Julie Burkhart, who this year has been working to open an abortion clinic in Casper.  

The lawsuit is intended to halt and reshape the actions of Wyoming, where the Legislature in March passed a law making abortion illegal in the event of any overturn of landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case Roe vs. Wade, which had treated abortion as a constitutional right for nearly 50 years.  

When the high court did overturn Roe vs. Wade on June 24, Wyoming’s trigger ban, or law reacting to the court action to outlaw abortion, fell under a verification process that is now nearly complete.  

The Wyoming Secretary of State should have the ban codified no later than Wednesday.  

Those listed as defendants in the suit include: 

  • Gov. Mark Gordon 
  • Attorney General Bridget Hill 
  • Teton County Sheriff Matthew Carr 
  • And Jackson chief of police Michelle Weber 

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Abortion Illegal In Wyoming: Governor Gordon Certifies Abortion Ban

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon on Friday certified Wyoming’s abortion ban, one day after the new law was verified by the state’s attorney general.  

“I have certified (abortion ban) House Bill 92 following the Attorney General’s analysis,” Gordon said. “I believe that the decision to regulate abortion is properly left to the states.” 

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 24 overturned Roe vs. Wade, a U.S. Supreme Court case that had treated abortion access as a constitutional right since 1973.

The move relegated abortion policy decisions back to the states for the first time in nearly 50 years.  

Wyoming was one of 13 states with a trigger ban, or bill outlawing abortion after a high court overturn, in place at the time.  

But Wyoming’s trigger ban required a review by the attorney general of no more than 30 days, then a review of up to five days by the governor prior to his certification, then a five-day processing period by the secretary of state, to codify the law.  

Hill completed her legal review in 27 days.  

Gordon certified the law in about one day and sent his decision to Secretary of State Ed Buchanan.  

“As a pro-life Governor, my focus will continue to be on ensuring we are doing all we can to support Wyoming mothers, children and families,” said Gordon. 

In five days or less, performing an abortion in Wyoming will be a felony punishable by up to 14 years in prison, except in cases of rape, incest, or severe health or death risks.  

When Hill’s office verified the law change Thursday, Gordon indicated that it wouldn’t take him long to certify it, saying he’d review it “overnight.” 

The Secretary of State had five days from Governor’s certification to codify the law.

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Wyoming Attorney General Verifies Roe Overturn; Law Official In 10 Days Or Less

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
clair@cowboystatedaily.com

The overturn of Roe vs. Wade is compatible with Wyoming’s trigger ban outlawing nearly all abortions, the attorney general ruled Thursday.  

In 10 days or less, performing an abortion in the state will be a felony punishable by up to 14 years in prison, except in cases of rape, incest, or severe health or death risks.  

Wyoming AG Bridget Hill on Thursday verified the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24 overturn of landmark abortion case Roe vs. Wade in a letter to Gov. Mark Gordon.  

“I have received the Attorney General’s analysis,” Gordon said Thursday. “I will give it prompt attention, review it overnight and consult with the Attorney General before proceeding.”  

While the 1973 precedent in Roe had treated abortion as a constitutional right for nearly 50 years, its overturn returns regulatory power over abortion to the states. Wyoming is one of 13 states that had a trigger ban – or law triggered by the Supreme Court’s overturn – in place in June.  

Gordon now has five days to certify the law to Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, after which it would become official law within another five days.  

With Hill’s announcement also comes her pledge to defend the new law against court challenges.  

“The Office of the Wyoming Attorney General stands ready to defend it,” she wrote in conclusion of her letter to Gordon.  

Though typical for the AG to be tasked with defending the state’s laws, Hill’s pronounced duty comes amid efforts by the U.S. Congress to federally codify the abortion-access right once assured by Roe.  

For example, the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2022, penned in May in response to early indicators that Roe would be overturned, would make abortion access a right in the eyes of federal law.  

‘They Stand For Life’ 

Hill’s letter also was sent Thursday to the Joint Judiciary Committee of the Wyoming Legislature, which oversees changes in criminal law.  

Co-chaired by Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne, and Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, the committee now has a duty to make the ban’s language compatible with the rest of Wyoming’s laws.   

Nethercott could not be reached by phone Thursday evening.  

Olsen said he has received the document.  

He also said empowering the states and the people within them with policy decisions like this is foundational to America’s government.  

“Our Constitutional Republic is inherently built on the assumption that policy decisions like this rest with the people and the states,” Olsen told Cowboy State Daily in a text Thursday. “The people of Wyoming have made it clear they stand for life and the rights of innocent unborn children.”  

As for tweaking the law to make it fit the books, there seems to be no immediate urgency, Olsen indicated.  

“Neither the Dobbs decision (overturning Roe) nor the Attorney General’s certification solicits or warrants any action from the committee at this time,” said Olsen.  

The committee’s next meeting is slated for Sept. 12.  

Hard Stand 

When a draft copy of the high court’s decision was leaked to the press in May, a prominent Democratic lawmaker in Wyoming said giving abortion policy decisions back to the states would change how state legislators behave.  

“This is going to really open a new discussion,” said Senate Minority Floor Leader Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, at the time. “All of the prior debate has been speculative and politically safe for proponents of turning back abortion. It was always just politics to them, because nothing could really be done (to overturn Roe v. Wade).” 

As a result, some legislators who have publicly supported outlawing abortion in the past for appearance’s sake now will have to determine whether they truly do support the ban, he said. 

Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody, is the Republican legislator who sponsored Wyoming’s trigger ban to outlaw abortion.  

Rodriguez-Williams agreed with Rothfuss in part, telling Cowboy State Daily in May that some lawmakers could have voted pro-life for political expedience before the high court’s decision gave the law real impact.  

But, she countered, she believes the majority of Wyoming citizens hold pro-life values and will make it known at the polls.  

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Colorado Gov Signs Executive Order Telling Wyoming They Will Not Cooperate With Abortion Investigations

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
clair@cowboystatedaily.com

Colorado will not cooperate with any Wyoming investigations into abortions unless compelled to do so by a court, under an executive order signed this week by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis.

Polis’ order, issued Wednesday, forbids the state from working with any state that has outlawed abortions in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

The order is the eighth of its nature nationwide, and a sign of growing differences between states following the ruling that put the authority over abortions into the hands of the states rather than a constitutionally guaranteed right nationally.

Abortion is set to become a felony in Wyoming punishable by a sentence of up to 14 years by July 29, although exceptions are allowed in cases of rape, incest or to protect the health of the mother.

The executive order is designed in part to shield Colorado abortion providers who may provide services for Wyoming residents, said Colorado Rep. Meg Froelich, D-Englewood.

“We’re really dealing with our neighboring states’ experiments in how they’re going to punish pregnant people, and the people that help them, make private medical decisions,” Froelich told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.  

Froelich voiced strong approval for Polis’ order and disdain for largely pro-life legislatures like Wyoming’s.  

“(One effect of the order) is just to make sure our providers performing legal medical procedures or giving legal medical advice in Colorado are not prosecuted on some other state’s religious-based legislation,” she said.   

A Wyoming Supreme Court precedent from the year 2000 says that out-of-state conspirators in illegal activities — as abortions are scheduled to become — may be charged with a crime in Wyoming. However, there’s not yet a conspiracy statute pertaining to abortions. 

Wyoming also has a law in place banning the advertisement of abortion pills or drugs in the state.

Polis’ office did not return multiple voicemails requesting comment. Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser also did not respond Friday morning to a voicemail.  

Numerous county sheriffs in northern Colorado counties did not return Cowboy State Daily voicemails Friday morning.  

‘This Plan To Not Cooperate’ 

The social media reaction to news of Polis’ order was combative and varied.  

One Twitter user, “D Mulvey,” asked “Has anyone thought about what might happen when CO needs cooperation in an investigation? This plan to not cooperate did not have to be broadcast to the world – it simply could have been implemented as situations arose.”  

Another user, “MedicinalColorado,” wrote “The Governor can’t keep sheriffs from assisting out-of-state investigations.”  

“Abortion is healthcare,” chimed in Twitter user “PMay.” 

“I think he’s trying to defend Colorado’s history of being a state that values privacy and personal autonomy,” said “M M” in a tweet.  

Abortion Pills 

Froelich said she isn’t sure if the executive order will extend immunity to Colorado abortionists who send abortion pills into Wyoming.  

Wyoming’s imminent ban on abortion will link up with existing legal definitions to criminalize the use of abortion pills – which accounted for all 98 Wyoming abortions in 2021 – as well as surgical abortion.   

“I don’t know the ramifications of (the order) and that’s one of the things we’re going over.” said Froelich. “If Wyoming chooses to pass some sort of anti-choice measure, how we can protect our folks?” 

Froelich lamented an announcement by Planned Parenthood of Montana that it will deny abortion pills to women from pro-life states; she said that kind of “dampening” is exactly what Colorado seeks to avoid with its order. 

Aiding And Abetting 

Part of the executive order is designed to protect people who may be chargeable under other states’ laws against aiding and abetting abortions. 

Wyoming currently has no such law, but the sponsor of the state’s imminent ban on abortion, Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody, said she is considering pursuing the measure in the January legislative session.  

Rodriguez-Williams has been outspoken about abortion clinics’ ability to hide rape and incest evidence and thereby help criminal suspects escape the justice system.  

But Froelich said Colorado’s leadership sees donations toward abortion services in a much more favorable light.  

“The heartbreak (we have) is for… folks who can’t – we have teenagers who can’t tell their parents,” said Froelich. “Where do they go? Who’s looking out for them? And the answer is, our Colorado organizations, our nonprofit organizations are committed to serving as many people as they can and helping with all aspects of accessing care.”  

Constitution Change For Colorado 

Froelich said earlier Colorado legislation identifying abortion access as a right and Polis’ executive order are just the beginning. She’s working to overturn a law against the use of state funds for abortions and is part of a movement to make abortion access a guaranteed right under Colorado’s Constitution.  

The ballot measure is slated to go to Coloradans for approval in 2024.  

‘Shall Not’ 

The executive order has five goals: 

Polis commanded state agencies and principal departments, such as county sheriffs, not to share any data or spend any time or money helping out-of-state authorities investigate abortion situations deemed criminal in other states. This section has two caveats: the agencies can give information or aid following a court order, or they “may” help the investigation in response to a written request from the “subject,” or person being investigated.  

All state agencies must coordinate with each other to protect Colorado abortionists or anyone helping with or seeking abortion services in Colorado.  

Colorado is working with all professional licensure boards, such as medical licensing boards, to prevent providers from repercussions stemming from performing abortions or being convicted of the act in another state.   

Polis vowed to use “the full extent of (his) discretion” to decline other states’ requests for arrest, surrender, or extradition of any person criminally charged with any law relating to abortion.  

Because the order used the term “reproductive healthcare” throughout its text, Polis’ final assertion referenced a section of Colorado law defining “reproductive health care” to include many pregnancy- and sexual health-related services, including abortion.  

‘Public Education’ From On High 

President Joe Biden on Friday weighed in on the interstate dispute by signing a national executive order.

The order is designed to “protect access to medication abortion,” expand access to contraception, launch “public education efforts” regarding abortion, and contract volunteer attorneys to defend abortion seekers and providers throughout the nation.  

It also seeks to beef up medical privacy laws to shield abortion providers from investigations and protect mobile abortion clinics, “which have been deployed to borders to offer care for out-of-state patients.”  

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Adoption Agencies Say There Are More Than Enough Families Ready & Waiting To Adopt Babies

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

With abortion currently or soon to be outlawed in at least 13 states, adoptive families are prepared to take on extra babies.  

That’s because there are more families waiting to adopt infants than there are infants to be adopted, both in Wyoming and nationwide, according to two adoption agencies licensed in the state.  

“There’s this feeling that there aren’t enough families waiting out there, so we should make (adoption) easier, more affordable, somehow change the system. But that doesn’t compute in our agency,” said  Carol Lindly, director of Wyoming Children’s Society.   

Wyoming Children’s Society has between 10 and 15 families waiting on infant adoptions right now, which is more than enough for the six to 10 placements the agency orchestrates per year.  

There’s a surplus of would-be adoptive parents nationally as well, according to Dr. Rick Morton, vice president of engagement at Lifeline Children’s Services, which handles adoptions in 16 states.  

The agency has about 100 families waiting to adopt infants and toddlers right now, and processes about 40 infant adoptions per year.  

“We feel very confident in the fact that we will have a more-than-adequate number of adoptive families, to provide families for children, (following) the changes that we’ve seen in the laws here in the U.S.,” said Morton, adding, “There are many more families who express a desire to adopt than we have the ability to even be able to bring into an adoption program at this point.”  

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision returning authority over abortions to the states, Wyoming is on track to outlaw nearly all abortions by July 29.

There were 98 abortions reported in Wyoming last year. Abortion is expected to remain legal in both Colorado and Montana, which border Wyoming.     

‘They’re Not Considering Abortion’ 

Usually by the time a pregnant woman reaches Wyoming Children’s Society, she has long since ruled out abortion as an option, Lindly said. 

“Most of the women that come to us, they’re not considering abortion, honestly,” said Lindly. “The women that come to us really have thought long and hard and are wanting to follow through with the adoption.

“I think the general public thinks ‘Oh my gosh, now that Roe vs. Wade is overturned, all these adoptions will occur,’” she continued. “I’m not sure that will be the case.”  

Lindly noted that the region still has many cultures “who don’t embrace adoption,” and she also wondered if illegal use of abortion pills or other work-arounds would be used by Wyoming women.  

Lindly said, nevertheless, one adoption reform the agency would like to see is increased counseling for birth mothers who have given their babies up, as it is a difficult and often haunting decision.  

Both Wyoming Children’s Society and Lifeline Children’s Services offer counseling for birth parents, but when adoptions are done by attorneys or other third parties, that option isn’t always offered.  

‘The Unfair Part’ 

Although most American babies given up after unwanted pregnancies should be able to find homes, adoption workers still expressed concern for an oft-forgotten group: older children and teens stuck in foster care.  

“Most people want that tiny little infant instead of a 12-year-old preadolescent boy who’s been traumatized and is acting out,” said Lindly. “But those kids need families as much as infants.”  

Korin Schmidt, director of the Wyoming Department of Family Services, also noted the dire need among older children.  

“I understand the conversation usually is about infants and children, but we really struggle with finding foster families for older kids,” said Schmidt. “And that’s the unfair part of the system when we take children into protective custody.”  

Wyoming DFS works with adoption centers like Wyoming Children’s Society, but DFS also is required by statute to try to reunite neglected or abused children with their original families wherever possible before parental rights are terminated and the children become legally available for adoption. 

DFS works with the courts to get parents or guardians into treatment. In some cases, law enforcement and prosecutors may incarcerate those parents. 

Children can be taken into foster care because of either neglect or abuse, and in Wyoming, neglect is the cause in about 65% of all cases. The term includes lack of food, lack of shelter, unaddressed parental mental health issues, substance abuse issues, or a combination of those things.  

Often, it’s teachers or other public-school workers who first refer children to DFS, which prompts further investigation.   

After a child’s guardians have undergone treatment or have been through the criminal justice system, if the home still can’t be made safe, a judge can cut off the parents’ rights to their own child, said Schmidt.

Some parents also will voluntarily terminate their own parental rights, but that’s uncommon.  

“If you’re terminating parental rights, that’s a huge decision. That’s something the system takes very seriously,” said Schmidt. After parents’ rights have been terminated by a court, the child or children become available for adoption.  

Special Kind Of Human 

Adopting teens from foster care takes a special kind of human, said Lindsey Schilling, senior administrator for DFS’ social services division.   

Foster care teens have suffered neglect, abuse or both, and can require intense supervision and guidance.  

“These kids, if they’re in our system, are here for a reason that’s been validated through the judicial process,” she said. They can require a more intense and round-the clock supervision, higher levels of childcare training, a safety plan “to mitigate outbursts,” and at least one stay-at-home parent.  

It’s also better if they’re the only child in the home.  

“It’s a very different type of home than we see in families that can take babies or toddlers and drop them off at daycare and go to work,” said Schilling.  

When no foster family or, in some scenarios, adoptive family can be found to care for the teen, he or she goes to a group home facility, which isn’t ideal.  

“We believe children should be raised in homes,” said Schmidt. “We think family-like settings are best for children.”  

Wyoming DFS is expanding its recruitment and retention efforts toward foster parents in the coming year and will be focused especially on attracting and training prospective families for teens, said Schilling.

That decision pre-dates the U.S. Supreme Court decision that turned abortion law over to the states and started the 35-day clock on Wyoming’s abortion ban.  

State Issue, State Reforms 

Besides increased availability of counseling for birth mothers, Lindly said her agency would also like to see state law require home study for prospective adoptive families, that is, a process by which adoption providers screen families and make sure they’ll be a safe option for a child.  

On the foster-care end of the issue, Schmidt said her agency would like to see more community-based services to help families before they get into trouble, and into the system in the first place. 

“Preventing kids from coming into custody is the best way we can help that system,” said Schmidt, pointing to needs for mental health service access, and “early identification” of neglect and abuse.  

“Treatment is important from the get-go,” she said. 

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Montana Planned Parenthood To Stop Selling Abortion Pills To Women From Wyoming

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

Fearing possible civil and criminal repercussions, Planned Parenthood of Montana on Thursday announced it will stop supplying abortion pills to Wyoming women once the state’s abortion ban takes effect.  

Martha Fuller, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Montana, said in a staff email Thursday that the implications of providing abortion services to women from states where abortions are outlawed has forced the organization to halt such services, though it will still schedule surgical abortions regardless of state residency.

“The risks around cross-state provision of services are currently less than clear, with the potential for both civil and criminal action for providing abortions in states with bans,” the email said.

Virtually all Wyoming abortions in the past three years have been induced by medication.  

Wyoming is one of 13 states with a “trigger ban” in place, that is, a law outlawing abortion following any decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the landmark abortion rights case Roe vs. Wade. 

The Supreme Court did overturn the case on June 24, putting authority over abortions into the hands of the states rather than guaranteeing it as a fundamental right.  

The Planned Parenthood email focused in on women from South Dakota, where a trigger ban already has taken effect.  

“Patients from South Dakota (and other states with total bans CURRENTLY in effect – we are highlighting SD because we see a significant number of patients from there) will not be able to received (sic) medication abortion services at PPMT,” the email continued, adding that future patients will be required to show proof of residency.  

“This was a hard decision to make, and I want you to know that it is based on protecting our providers and patients,” it said. 

Fuller opined that the change would impact Indigenous women more than others. 

PPMT on Friday did not take further questions, but sent Cowboy State Daily a prepared statement emphasizing that women still can receive in-clinic abortions in Montana. 

Montana does not have a trigger ban in place. 

All Wyo Abortions Chemical 

Though South Dakota is currently contemplating legislation banning abortion pills, Wyoming’s trigger ban will link up with preexisting legal definitions to ban abortions induced by medication outright.  

The pills in question are Mifepristone, which blocks pregnancy-sustaining hormone progesterone, and Misoprostol, which causes uterine contractions and bleeding. Taken together over several hours, the pills cause a woman to miscarry.  

More than half of the abortions in the United States are induced through medication. But in Wyoming, practically all of them are.   

In 2021, there were 98 abortions in Wyoming; all 98 were chemical abortions. In 2020, 88 out of 91 abortions were chemically induced, and in 2019, the figure was 31 out of 31.  

The procedure is approved for women who are less than 11 weeks pregnant and in consequence, all abortions reported in Wyoming for the past three years, except for one “unknown,” occurred before 11 weeks’ gestation.  

Nation’s Top Prosecutor 

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, who oversees all federal prosecutors in the nation, vowed Friday to maintain abortion access as much as he’s able. 

Garland also said that states “may not” ban abortion pill Mifepristone because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) already has approved the drug.  

However, whether states can ban FDA-approved abortion pills completely is not yet settled law, and is yet another post-Roe question in need of judicial review, the Washington Post reported in May.  

“We don’t know how the court would rule. It’s an open question,” Patti Zettler, associate professor of Ohio State University, told the Post.  

The University of Wyoming law school faculty has not been responding to questions relating to new abortion laws, UW spokesman Chad Baldwin told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.  

“Nobody is willing to talk about it,” said Baldwin. “I’ve looked and just nobody seems either able or willing to opine on issues, including the one you’ve just described.”  

The school’s pharmacy also did not immediately respond to a voicemail requesting comment.  

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‘We Matter, We Vote:’ Hundreds Turn Out For Roe Rally In Cheyenne On Thursday

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A crowd of several hundred gathered in front of the Wyoming’s Capitol on Thursday to protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn the landmark abortion ruling “Roe vs. Wade.”

The crowd began to gather more than one-half hour before the start of the “Rally for Our Reproductive Rights,” with attendees holding signs to protest the ruling, chanting and cheering any cars that drove by and honked in support.

“We matter, we vote,” was one of the chants. Some of the signs included the longstanding “My body, my choice” phrase, while others called on the U.S. Supreme Court to keep its “hands” off of their genitals or accusing U.S. Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas of being sexual abusers.

Cheyenne resident Rikki Cruz brought her two daughters, Ember and Savvy, along with her husband to the rally on Thursday because she said the overturning of Roe would affect the young girls down the road.

Rikki (left), Savvy (center) and Ember Cruz attended the “Rally For Our Reproductive Rights” in Cheyenne on Thursday.

“Ember, my nine-year-old, has already said she doesn’t want to have kids. She’s like, ‘They’re not interesting,'” Cruz told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday, as her daughter agreed with her mother in the background. “She wanted to be included and she wants to fight for her right when she comes of age.”

Ember Cruz told Cowboy State Daily she was mad about the decision, holding up a sign that said “I’m not in your little book club, stay out of my uterus,” with a hand-drawn picture of a Bible and fire surrounding it.

During the rally, speakers such as Wyoming Equality executive director Sara Burlingame and Wyoming Senate candidates Marcie Kindred and Ted Hanlon spoke. Time was also given to women to share their stories about why abortion rights were so important and need to be protected.

“I have daughters, I have daughters-in-law, I have granddaughters and I’m worried about them,” Hanlon said. “I have wonderful women friends and I’m worried about them. I have precious friends and family in the LGBTQ community and I’m worried about them.

“This is not the time for nuance and ambiguity. It’s a time to be crystal clear. A woman has an absolute right to make her own decisions about her own body,” Hanlon continued.

A majority of the Supreme Court last week ruled that access to abortions is not a constitutionally guaranteed right and that the issue should be decided by the states. In the wake of the decision, Wyoming’s “trigger ban” law will ban most abortions in the state in less than one month.

Cheyenne residents were not the only ones to turn out for the rally, nor were the participants only women.

Cowboy State Daily columnist Rod Miller could be seen in the crowd, along with Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, and a number of colorful participants, including a woman dressed as a handmaid from the television show “The Handmaid’s Tale” and a man who donned short shorts and spiked heels who held a sign that said “Walk in her shoes.”

Megan Cragun was among a group of women who drove from Rawlins to attend the rally. All four of the women told Cowboy State Daily that this was the first time any of them had gone to such a protest.

“If they have the right to make the choices, we deserve to have the same rights,” Cragun said. “Wyoming is the Equality State. I think that should stand as a point for the rest of the United States.”

Her friend, Kimberly Morse, who held a sign featuring a coat hanger (imagery often linked to unsafe and sometimes deadly abortions) told Cowboy State Daily she remembers the days when women used to use hangers and that the nation should not go back to that.

“It’s not right,” she said.

Another woman in the group said people should be “pissed” about the ruling and added if they are not, then they are not paying attention to the world around them.

Rock Springs resident Mya Boren told Cowboy State Daily that she also had never protested before Thursday, but felt she needed to attend because the abortion ruling is part of a larger issue.

“Unfortunately, people don’t see that right now, even the ones who are celebrating this ruling,” she said. “This impacts them, too. This is about our right to our body.”

She said that despite Wyoming being the Equality State, women are not equal in the state or nation and never have been.

“It’s beyond morality. It’s about rights. This is about freedom,” Boren said.

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AOC’s Plan To Put Abortion Clinics On Fed Land In Wyoming Not Very Feasible

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
clair@cowboystatedaily.com

A plan put forth in a passionate plea by a New York congresswoman to put abortion clinics on federal lands in conservative states would face a series of hurdles in Wyoming, where roughly half the land is federally held.  

“Open abortion clinics on federal lands right now! – right now!” U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, chanted Friday during a protest in Union Square. 

News outlets have since reported that Ocasio-Cortez was trying to persuade President Joe Biden to install abortion clinics on federal lands, which include national parks like Yellowstone and tribal regions like the Wind River Indian Reservation.  

Ocasio-Cortez and numerous Democratic lawmakers were livid Friday when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned landmark abortion case Roe vs. Wade, putting authority over abortions into the hands of the states rather than making the procedure a constitutionally protected right across the country.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, also raised the idea, telling reporters that “(Biden should) explore just how much we can start using federal lands as a way to protect people who need access to abortions,” in states about to ban the procedure.  

Abortion is slated to become illegal in Wyoming in less than a month.  

Hyde Amendment 

For Biden’s administration to build and fund abortion clinics anywhere – including on federal lands – is generally illegal under the Hyde Amendment, a provision of U.S. law prohibiting federal funding of all abortions except in the case of incest, rape, and severe health crises.  

The law does not forbid an abortion provider from opening a private clinic on federal lands.  

However, privately-funded abortionists can’t work without a state medical license, if they’re working in Wyoming. 

Doctors working in federal facilities can operate under a license from any U.S. jurisdiction, but health care providers working in private facilities within Wyoming’s borders must have a Wyoming medical license.  

‘Closing Any Loopholes’  

State law currently does not list performing abortions as grounds for the Wyoming Medical Board to revoke a doctor’s license, which Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody, said she sees as a “loophole.”  

Rodriguez-Williams was the sponsor of Wyoming’s “trigger ban,” outlawing abortion after the Supreme Court’s decision. She told Cowboy State Daily that she is considering revising Wyoming’s medical licensing laws to prevent abortions on federal property. 

“I will be committed to close any loopholes that we become aware of, whether it’s (by) drafting a bill to codify something in state statute that deals with the board of medicine… or drafting a bill that prevents aiding and abetting (abortions),” she said.

Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette, who co-sponsored the trigger ban, agreed with Rodriguez-Williams, adding that changing medical licensing laws around the new legal landscape shouldn’t be a problem for the Legislature that passed a trigger ban.

“Considering the fact that the current law going into place no later than July 29 has a 14-year prison term for performing an abortion, I don’t think it would be a far stretch to say that we’d remove someone’s license to practice,” said Bear.  

Wind River 

A privately-funded abortionist likewise could operate legally on the Wind River Indian Reservation, especially as the current U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has pledged to do all in his power to preserve abortion access.  

The reservation falls under tribal jurisdiction for misdemeanor crimes and federal jurisdiction for felony-level crimes. Neither forbids abortion.  

However, non-tribal members on the reservation can still be prosecuted under state law. 

Fremont County Attorney Patrick LeBrun said he would prosecute under the new abortion ban as far as his jurisdiction allows.  

“If have jurisdiction, I’ll prosecute it,” he said.  

As with federal public lands and state parks, doctors operating on the reservation must have medical licenses. 

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Future Of Rape, Incest Exemptions In Wyoming Abortion Law Unsure, Wyo Senator Says

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A state senator from Lander could not speculate Wednesday on whether legislators will revisit the law banning abortions in Wyoming to remove the exemptions for rape and incest.

Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that when he added the exemptions to the bill creating a “trigger abortion ban” in the case Roe vs. Wade was ever overturned, the vote to adopt it in the Senate was split almost down the middle.

“It passed 15 to 14 in the Senate,” Case said. “With bills, you have to have the majority of those elected, but with amendments, it just has to the majority of those present. One senator was not there, but had she been, the vote would have been divided, 15-15, and my amendment wouldn’t have passed.”

The Legislature, during its budget session earlier this year, approved legislation to outlaw abortions in case the U.S. Supreme Court ever overturned Roe vs. Wade the landmark court ruling from 1973 that declared abortion a protected right across the country. Under the law, abortions must become illegal in Wyoming within 35 days of such a ruling.

When the law was making its way through the Legislature, it did not allow exemptions in the cases of rape. That language was added by Case in the bill’s final Senate review.

Case said he felt strongly about adding the rape and incest exemptions to the abortion bill. While the senator said he understood his colleagues’ moral intent in crafting abortion legislation, he said it was important to have exceptions for rape and incest in the bill.

“Rape and incest exemptions have traditionally existed and there’s good reason,” he said. “If you don’t have it, you’re literally telling women that they will be carrying a child conceived from rape or incest and they have no choice in the matter. I look at the burden that we placed on women and autonomy over their bodies and decisions they can make in their lives.”

Removing the language would require the development of a new bill, which would then have win legislative approval.

However, he said he did not know what future Legislatures will look like and would not speculate on the possibility of removing the exemptions.

The abortion bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody, did not return Cowboy State Daily’s repeated requests for comment this week, nor did several of her bill co-sponsors: Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, Rep. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, Sen. Lynn Huchings, R-Cheyenne, Rep. Jamie Flitner, R-Greybull and Rep. Jeremy Haroldson, R-Wheatland.

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Supreme Court Ruling Means Abortion In Wyoming Will Be Illegal Shortly

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

In 35 days or less, Wyoming is slated to outlaw nearly all abortions.  

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Friday overturning the landmark abortion ruling Roe vs. Wade, the clock began ticking on Wyoming’s “trigger law” approved this year banning most abortions. 

“Today is a wonderful day. It’s a dream come true,” state Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody, told Cowboy State Daily on Friday morning. “We’re living in a post-Roe America, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

However, others criticized the court’s ruling as taking away a fundamental right for women.

“It’s a sad day for women across the country, having their fundamental right taken away,” said Sen. Mike Gierau, D-Jackson. “I think it’s not good for the country; I think this whole issue has always been theoretical in the state and now it’s going to become real.”  

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday morning overturned Roe vs. Wade, which in 1973 deemed abortion access a constitutional right. The current Supreme Court justices, in a 6-3 majority opinion, declared that abortion access is not a fundamental right, but is a legal issue best left to state governments.  

Wyoming, now with more power over abortion law than it has had in 50 years, is one of 13 states with a trigger ban in place, which fast-tracks the outlawing of abortion in the event of any overturn of Roe vs. Wade. Wyoming’s trigger ban and preexisting statute together would make abortions felonies punishable by up to 14 years in prison except in the case of severe health or death risks, rape and incest.  

The definition of “abortion” in Wyoming law includes both surgical and non-surgical procedures, including pills used for elective terminations of pregnancy.  

In 2021 there were 98 abortions reported by Wyoming physicians. Of those, 62 of the mothers had not had children prior; 16 had one child prior; 11 had two children, six had had three, and three had four or more children prior to the abortion, according to state vital statistics.  

Governor’s Desk 

The state must launch an internal conversation before changing the law. Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill has no more than 30 days to review the Supreme Court’s decision, and, if she finds the ruling aligns with Wyoming’s trigger ban, she must then report it to the governor and to the Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee, which alters criminal statutes.  

Within five days of the AG’s nod, Gov. Mark Gordon “may,” the statute says, certify the new law and prompt the secretary of state to publish the change in statute.  

Gordon did not guarantee that he would certify the change, but in a general statement dispatched Friday, he indicated that he agrees with the idea of the state taking primacy over abortion law. 

“This is a decisive win for those who have fought for the rights of the unborn for the past 50 years,” Gordon said. “I signed Wyoming’s prohibition on abortion bill because I believe that the decision to regulate abortions should be left to the states.” 

Strategy 

Although elated, Rodriguez-Williams said now is the time to get to work. The legislator sponsored Wyoming’s trigger ban but resisted its exemptions for rape and incest, telling Cowboy State Daily in a past interview that “abortion clinics are a rapist’s best friend” and can be used to hide criminal evidence.

She called the court’s Friday ruling “exciting” and described it not just as a win for life, but for states’ rights. 

Pro-choice advocates also are mobilizing, in a different direction, and hoping to preserve the rape and incest exemptions in Wyoming’s law while urging voters to favor pro-choice candidates at the polls.  

“Sadly, the efforts to restrict abortion in Wyoming have likely only just begun,” said Rep. Patrick Sweeney, R-Casper, in a Friday press conference hosted by Julie Burkhart, Wellspring Health Access founder, who has been working to open an abortion clinic in Casper. 

The abortion clinic last month was burned in a reported arson. 

A self-described pro-choice advocate, Sweeney was one of a handful of Republican legislators to vote against Rodriguez-Williams’s trigger ban late this winter. He said he’s not hopeful that Wyoming’s pro-choice delegates are numerous enough to overturn the trigger ban, and recalled that it was a difficult fight to add the exemptions, which he said he’s committed to preserving.  

“I don’t see a way to fight back on this and it was, as you’re all aware, pretty futile to even vote against it,” said Sweeney, noting that it was Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, who led efforts in the Senate to insert the exemptions “at the last minute.”  

“Otherwise those would have been left out,” Sweeney said. 

Members of the Democratic Caucus to Wyoming’s Legislature, in a prepared statement, pledged to battle any attempts to remove the rape and incest exemptions from the law.

“As your Wyoming Democratic Caucus, we will resist these efforts, and are saddened and angered by our colleagues’ continual push to curtail our human rights,” the statement said. “We remind Wyomingites that this is an election year, and voters should understand what their candidates stand for: supporting raising Wyoming families or government control of reproductive decisions.”

Lawsuit? 

Burkhart told the media in the same press conference that her organization’s resistance will be immediate, but she’s not yet certain what form it will take. 

She indicated she may pursue legal action, but did not commit to it, saying she believes that the state’s Constitution in Article I, Section 38, defends “bodily autonomy.”

The Constitution section states that all competent adults have the right to make their own health care decisions without “undue government infringement.”  

However, another paragraph in the same section gives the Legislature the right to “determine reasonable and necessary restrictions on the rights granted under this section to protect the health and general welfare of the people…”

Burkhart, whose clinic is slated to provide other care, counseling, and “gender-affirming care,” said it’s too soon to determine whether the clinic can survive with abortions generally outlawed.  

She also worried that the ruling would place already-underserved populations under financial and time burdens, as women will be forced to seek abortions in other states.  

Colorado is poised to offer abortion still, following the ruling. 

Church And State 

Rev. Leslie Kee, who spoke alongside Burkhart at the virtual press conference, said a key pro-choice strategy going forward is to advance an argument for separation of church and state.  

“It is a moral and religious issue because the religious, fundamental right worked very hard to put six conservative Christian justices on the Supreme Court, and by doing that they have effectively used the government to privilege their own source of ultimate moral authority, which is the ‘our father in heaven’ God of the bible,” said Kee, emphasizing that different women may have different interpretations of their “god” and their god’s expectations for them.   

“How is this religious slippery slope they’ve set us on now any different than what the Taliban is doing to women in Iraq?” Kee asked rhetorically.  

Rep. Chip Neiman, R-Hulett, countered in his own interview that the issue is not about imposing religious pressure, but about the intrinsic value of unborn life. 

“Wyoming was at the forefront of this (trigger ban). We had the opportunity to do what was right, and Wyoming did it,” said Neiman. “Wyoming is officially among the few states to say we believe in, and we protect life.”  

Neiman, a trigger-ban co-sponsor, said he was thankful and honored to have been a part of the process, adding that he will work to repeal the rape and incest exemptions, which he deemed discriminatory.  

“Stop and think about that. That’s discriminatory. Those little kids conceived in that manner, they didn’t get to choose how they were conceived,” he said. “Does that make them guilty?”  

State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, a co-sponsor of the trigger ban, said he was pleased to see the ruling.

“This is a wonderful moment for our country,” Gray, a candidate for Wyoming’s secretary of state office, said in a prepared statement. “After nearly 50 years of horrific abortion-on-demand policies in America, Roe v. Wade has been ended.  Now the pro-life law I helped cosponsor and pass in Wyoming will be triggered to ensure all innocent human beings can be protected in the Equality State.”

National Scene 

Wyoming’s all-Republican federal delegation added strong sentiments to the discussion Friday, while President Joe Biden issued a statement expressing opposite views.

“Many will try to use this decision to divide our country and her citizens, but ultimately, the Supreme Court chose to side with the founding principles of our country,” junior U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis said in a public statement. “The states should decide how to approach abortion. I’m grateful for this pro-life decision from the Court today.”  

Sen. Barrasso praised the return of power “back to states to legislate in a way that reflects the will of their voters.” 

“Opponents of this decision want unlimited, on-demand abortions – for any reason – up until the moment of birth,” he continued. “With today’s decision, the United States will no longer have the same anti-life laws as countries like communist China and North Korea.”  

Rep. Liz Cheney said she has “always been strongly pro-life” and likewise praised the return of power to the states.  

Conversely, Biden, in a brief statement, predicted the ruling will have negative implications for women, saying “the health and life of women in this nation are now at risk.”  

“Today the Supreme Court expressly took away a constitutional right for the American people,” Biden said. “They didn’t limit it. They simply took it away.”  

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Protests Break Out In Some Wyo Towns Over Supreme Court Abortion Ruling

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

In a conservative small Wyoming town like Cody, it takes a certain amount of courage to hold a pro-choice abortion rally to protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

About a dozen people came out for the rally Friday night, brandishing signs such as “Not Your Body, Not Your Business,” and “My Body My Choice.” A few of the signs implored passersby to honk, bringing a chattering of horns and even the chime of a bike bell from people moving along their early evening rides.

To the surprise of a few of the protesters, there weren’t many negative comments levied at the group.

“There’s been a lot of honks,” said organizer Elizabeth Wells, between blares. “We’ll stay out here until they quit honking.”



Other pro-choice rallies were held in Casper and Jackson on Friday. The event in Jackson was attended by about 300 people, said organizer Maggie Hunt. Organizer Jane Ifland said her event in Casper drew around 100.

“It was comforting for us all see each other,” Ifland said.

At one point at the Cody rally, a woman who Wells had never met came up and gave her a heartfelt hug, holding the embrace for a number of seconds. She thanked Wells and then got back in her truck, sounding off a few emphatic honks as she was leaving the scene.

Wells said holding a rally was the best way she knows how to make her voice heard. As someone who had an abortion in the past, she can speak personally on the matter.

“Women in Wyoming should not have to travel to Colorado for health care,” she said. “We should absolutely not be punished for making our own choices for our bodies.”

She learned the Supreme Court had rendered its decision in a text from her friend Kadence Holman. The first thing Holman asked Wells was if she wanted to make signs, and the protest was on.

“There’s so many women who are scared to voice their opinion,” Wells said. “They’re scared to do anything about it, to have an opinion, to have a voice, and I’m out here for the women who couldn’t make it today.”



With the landmark 1973 abortion ruling overturned, the clock begins on a law that would ban abortions in the state except in the case of rape or incest. Wyoming legislators have already started discussing removing those exemptions. Holman said she has been the victim of rape.

“Women should have their own right to their own body,” she said.

Joining Holman and Wells on Sheridan Avenue were Emily and Henry Jones, both carrying firearms concealed in holsters at their hips for self protection. 

In 2013, Emily Jones had an ectopic pregnancy, an event that occurs when a fertilized egg implants and grows outside the main cavity of the uterus. She was taken to the emergency room in order to save her life.

The married couple worries the court’s decision will lead to certain states enacting stricter laws, such as making it a crime to receive an abortion in the event of miscarriages or to protect a mother’s well-being. 

Wells said she had her abortion for a stress-induced incomplete miscarraige.

“I did not even know I was pregnant,” she said.

Henry Jones’ father Larry Jones is a Cody attorney who also attended the protest, calling the Roe decision “a step back into the stone ages.” He said the the majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito undercuts the basis for other rights such as same sex marriage and consensual sex and access to contraception.

Wells said she is now considering leaving the state for the sake of her daughter.

“For her to grow up in a state with the same rights I had I will move,” she said. “Because I live in a state with a trigger ban.”

Under Wyoming’s trigger ban enacted in this year’s legislature, nearly all abortions will be outlawed in the state within 35 days of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Emily Jones said this law is yet another reason why many younger people are leaving the state. But, she said they should keep up the good fight and remain optimistic when it comes to the future of the Cowboy State.

“I would encourage them to stay and fight the good fight because this is the Equality State even if it doesn’t feel like that,” she said.

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Pro-Choice Rallies Planned Around Wyoming In Wake Of Roe Vs. Wade Ruling

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Pro-choice groups planned to rally around the state on Friday night to protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning the landmark abortion ruling “Roe vs. Wade.”

Organizers said at least three rallies would be held statewide, in Casper, Jackson and Cody.

“We’re trying to harness everybody’s energy immediately,” said Maggie Hunt, chairman of the Teton County Democratic Party.

Hunt said she has spread word to as many groups as possible regarding the peaceful protest the Teton County Democratic Party is hosting in Town Square, one of the most central and well-known spots in downtown Jackson. She said she is unsure how many will attend but is expecting a passionate group.

“We’ve already seen a huge outpouring of response,” she said.

The court on Friday overturned Roe vs. Wade, ruling abortion is not a constitutionally guaranteed right, and giving the states control over whether abortions will be allowed in their borders.

The court’s decision wasn’t a complete surprise to many pro-choice supporters due to the May leak of its draft decision. What did come as a surprise to some like Hunt was the court’s complete reversal of 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision. Five of the justices opined that abortion access is not a fundamental right guaranteed in the Constitution, but rather a legal issue best left to state governments.  

The decision starts the clock on Wyoming’s “trigger ban,” which will outlaw abortions in the state, except for cases of rape or incest, no more than 35 days after Roe vs. Wade is overturned.

“The Supreme Court action they took today to withdraw rights has never been done before,” said Jane Ifland, an advisory committee member for the Wellspring Health Access clinic, who is helping organize the Casper rally.

That rally was to take place outside True Care Women’s Resource Center on Poplar Street. 

Wellspring is a full-service reproductive health care clinic under construction in Casper which plans to offer abortions as part of its services. It was damaged in an arson-caused fire last month.

Ilfand said multiple Supreme Court justices lied to Congress about their stance on abortion during their confirmation hearings.

“This (decision) affects the majority of people in America,” she said. “There are more people with a uterus than without.”

Hunt said the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and other organizations are exploring their legal options for overturning Wyoming’s trigger ban.

“This violates bodily, autonomy and an individual’s right to privacy,” she said.

Hunt also hopes the court’s decision will bring a surge of motivation to pro-choice voters that could make an impact on the elections this fall.

Although the court decision on the matter had been expected for some time, it was unknown to the public that it would be released Friday morning.

The Cody rally was to take place in downtown City Park.

All of the rallies were to start at 5 p.m.

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Casper Abortion Clinic Plans To Open Despite Possible Roe V. Wade Reversal

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

Despite a leaked U.S. Supreme Court document indicating justices will reverse the landmark abortion rights case Roe V. Wade¸ a fledgling Casper abortion clinic still plans to open in June.  

Julie Burkhart, founder of Wellspring Health Access, which was previously called Circle of Hope Health Care Services, released a statement Tuesday morning indicating that she and her team intend to fight any attempt to outlaw abortion – and they still intend to open the abortion clinic.    

“Abortion remains legal in Wyoming,” reads Burkhart’s statement, calling the leaked opinion indicative of “a devastating blow to abortion access in Wyoming and across the country.” 

“We firmly maintain our resolve to ensure that the people of this state can get the health care they need,” she said.

On Monday, a U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion draft believed to be authored by Justice Samuel Alito was leaked to Politico. Alito is purported to have written that “Roe and Casey (a related 1992 ruling) must be overturned,” and that Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.” 

In a later interview with Cowboy State Daily, Burkhart called the leaked draft opinion “horrific.”  

Roe v. Wade in 1973 and the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992 declared women had a constitutional right to an abortion through the first trimester of pregnancy, or up to viability, making the procedure legal nationally.

Wyoming is one of many states with a trigger ban in place, that is, a law banning abortions in the event that Roe V. Wade was overturned by the high court.  

Under the trigger law, abortions still would be legal in Wyoming in cases involving a risk of death or extreme harm to the mother, rape, and incest.  

Abortions remain legal in Wyoming because the U.S. Supreme Court has not made its ruling official and is not expected to do so for several weeks or months.

Burkhart said she and her team still are “staunchly and fully committed to offering the full spectrum of reproductive health care, including abortion” at the new clinic.  

The Casper clinic is slated to be the second of two abortion clinics in the state, with the first in Jackson.  

Burkhart told Cowboy State Daily that the clinic still plans to open and operate for two reasons: she and her organization intend to fight Wyoming’s trigger ban in the courts or otherwise, and the clinic will offer other types of “reproductive healthcare” and “gender-affirming” treatment.  

The gender treatment to be offered at Wellspring will not include surgical alteration for gender dysphoria, though clients may be referred to outside surgeons by clinicians. Clinic organizers plan to offer counseling and hormonal treatments, said Burkhart.  

Trigger Ban Signed By Governor 

Marti Halverson, president of Wyoming Right To Life, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that her organization is concerned about the leak of the draft opinion, the first in the Supreme Court’s history, and hopes to see an investigation into the incident.  

She also said Wyoming is poised and ready for any legal or legislative challenge to the trigger law launched by Burkhart and other proponents of abortions in the state.  

Gov. Mark Gordon, noted Halverson, signed the trigger law that his attorney general would be expected to defend in the face of a legal challenge.  

“We are confident that Governor Gordon is going to enforce the provisions” of the trigger ban, said Halverson, adding that the bill passed both the state Senate and House “overwhelmingly.”  

Several surrounding states have trigger bans in place, but Wyoming’s southern neighbor Colorado is not one of them. Northern neighbor Montana does not have a trigger ban in place, but Guttmacher.org deemed it “likely” to ban abortion in the event of a high court reversal.  

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Potential Roe V. Wade Reversal Generates Diverse Wyoming Opinions

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Members of Wyoming groups opposed to and in supportive of abortion rights were divided Tuesday over news a draft ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court seemed to show the court was preparing to overturn the landmark abortion rights ruling Roe v. Wade.

“We’re thrilled that this decision would return the authority to regulate abortion in the state,” said Marti Halverson, president of Right to Life of Wyoming.

“We’ve all had it in the back of our minds that this could be a possibility, but I don’t think I or anyone of my ilk really wanted to believe a complete overturn was possible or probable,” Sharon Breitweiser, executive director of Pro-Choice Wyoming, told Cowboy State Daily.

A U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion draft leaked to Politico on Monday purported to show that a majority of the court’s justices have voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion ruling that made abortions legal nationally in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Abortions remain legal across the country because the Supreme Court has not issued its final ruling on the case that spawned the court’s review of Roe v. Wade.

Halverson said her organization is “thrilled” at the aspect of the reversal of Roe v. Wade, although she expressed concern that for the first time in the Supreme Court’s history, one of its draft opinions had been leaked.

“I am devastated that there would be a leak out of the U.S. Supreme Court and I think (Chief) Justice (John) Roberts is right to order an investigation, period,” she said.

The Wyoming Legislature this year passed a trigger abortion ban – a law that would ban abortion in Wyoming five days after an official Supreme Court repeal of Roe V. Wade.  

Halverson said Right to Life was also excited about the trigger bill going into effect, adding that the group expected Gov. Mark Gordon to “do his duty and enforce the provisions” of the bill.

While Breitweiser said she took comfort in the knowledge that the opinion likely wouldn’t move forward for several weeks or even months, she also was coming to terms with the likelihood that the opinion would be issued and authority over whether abortions would remain legal would go to the states.

“While Wyoming was never some ideal haven for abortions, we’ve gone from this supposedly proud legacy of valuing women’s equality and freedom from government interference and a ‘live and let live’ attitude to being one of the 13 worst states in the U.S. that will absolutely outlaw abortion” she said. “It’s troubling to me.”

Wyoming Equality executive director Sara Burlingame shared a similar attitude on Tuesday with Cowboy State Daily.

“I never feel more like a Wyoming woman than when I’m protecting my bodily autonomy from the United States’ government,” she said. “I do not see that the U.S. government has the right to tell me when and how to bear children. Most women that I know in Wyoming feel the same.”

Adrienne Mansanares, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rockies, said on Tuesday that the Supreme Court had failed the nation with the draft opinion.

“We’ve long known that the current makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court is hostile to reproductive rights. While this opinion is only a draft, it’s clear our fears were justified,” she said. “If the decision comes down as drafted, this outcome is as dangerous as it is unprecedented, and will open the floodgates for states across the country to ban abortion. 

“As we navigate the implications of this devastating draft, we want to be clear: We’re not going anywhere. Our doors are open, abortion care is legal, and we’re here for our patients today and every day,” she continued.

The Diocese of Cheyenne declined to comment for this article.

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Pro-Life Group Holds Protest At Planned Abortion Clinic in Casper

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

An estimated 150 people staged a rally Thursday in to show their opposition to a planned abortion clinic in Casper.

Most in the crowd outside of the clinic in downtown Casper told Cowboy State Daily they were attending the rally to voice their opposition to abortion.

Former Natrona County legislator Bob Brechtel, who was a vocal opponent of abortion as a member of Wyoming’s House of Representatives, said the gathering was called so people could “peacefully pray.”

“We are for standing for human life, from natural conception to natural death,” Brechtel said.

Another attendee, Ross Schriftman, who moved from Philadelphia to Casper last year, said he was a member of the Jewish Pro-Life Foundation. He said he had a conversion “from being ambivalent about abortion to being very pro-life.”

“I’m reminded of my mother’s story,” he said without explaining what the story was about. “There are 19 people alive today because of her love and her commitment to her child.”



The new clinic between downtown Casper and the Wyoming Medical Center will be operated by Circle of Hope Health Care Services, which is incorporated in Washington, D.C., and headed up by founder Julie Burkhart, who is based in Colorado.

The clinic is funded by private donors and has been created and supported by a community advisory board of 15 people, Burkhart said, including faith leaders, tribal communities and health care advocates.

Thursday evening’s vigil is not expected to be a one-time event. Sheila Leach, president of the Park County chapter of Right to Life of Wyoming, said there will be 40 concurrent days of like protests noting that these are expected to be low-key and respectful.

“The purpose is to pray for the babies, the mother and the father and for the staff at the clinic,” Leach said. “And it’s always peaceful.”

The peaceful nature of the protest was something attendee John Perry told Cowboy State Daily was important.

“I’m here to pray for the unborn, and pray for the dignity of life,” Perry said. “I think the right to life is a primary and foundational right, and I believe in the dignity of all people, born and unborn.”

Others, like Rita Louis, said she was there to send a message that an abortion clinic was not something that should be located in Wyoming, let alone Casper.

Abortion Support

Although pro-life groups may oppose the clinic, groups supporting women’s access to reproductive health care are welcoming it.

Christine Lichtenfels, founder of Chelsea’s Fund, which supports Wyoming women’s access to abortion health care, told Cowboy State Daily that the clinic will allow Wyoming residents more access to the health care they need.

She noted that the clinic will do more than just provide abortions, it will also offer all types of reproductive care.

Lichtenfels said that people get abortions for various difficult reasons, such as abusive relationships or the inability to care for another child, but it is also their choice and right to do so.

“I am not going to accept the position that Wyoming is historically, staunchly anti-abortion,” she said. “U.S. Sen. Al Simpson was much more reflective of the true libertarian approach of Wyoming, where the government does not belong in telling people what to do in their individual lives.”

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First Abortion Clinic in Wyoming to Open in Casper

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By Jennifer Kocher and Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Women in Wyoming will soon have access to surgical abortions as a new clinic in Casper is slated to open this June.

And while the planned opening of the clinic is generating opposition among members of Wyoming’s pro-life organizations, it is being welcomed by those who say the state’s women need access to more reproductive health services.

The new clinic between downtown Casper and the Wyoming Medical Center will be operated by Circle of Hope Health Care Services, which is incorporated in Washington, D.C., and headed up by founder Julie Burkhart, who is based in Colorado.

The clinic is funded by private donors and has been created and supported by a community advisory board of 15 people, Burkhart said, including faith leaders, tribal communities and health care advocates.

“Our goal in launching this clinic is to ensure that more people in Wyoming and the broader region have access to the reproductive health care they need, including abortion care,” Burkhart said.

Currently, Wyoming has only one abortion provider and 96% of Wyoming women live in a county without an abortion clinic.

“This makes it one of many ‘abortion deserts’ nationwide,” Burkhart said. “As a result, abortion is often out of reach for many across the state, including people living in rural areas, members of Native tribes and those with low incomes. This new clinic will help address the severe lack of access to reproductive health care options that these communities currently face.”

Casper was chosen as the home to the clinic based on its central location and the fact it can be reached by a majority of Wyomingites, including those in rural communities who currently have access to only one clinic in Jackson or must go out of state for services.



The clinic’s operators are still determining the scope of services they will provide in addition to abortions. The goal is to offer close to a full spectrum of reproductive health care services that may include contraceptive care, family planning, maternal and prenatal care, and gender-affirming care.

“Our clinic will be a welcoming and accepting place for all people seeking reproductive health care in Wyoming and the broader region,” Burkhart said.

Burkhart said the clinic is in the process of hiring staff and operators do not have a precise opening date though they are aiming for sometime this summer, likely June.

The Wyoming clinic is the group’s first project, though Burkhart said it will continue to explore other opportunities to expand reproductive health care in other areas where services are restricted.

Burkhart has a long history of reproductive rights advocacy. She was the CEO and founder of Trust Women for 12 years, according to her bio, establishing and overseeing two abortion clinics and overseeing a third.

She also worked with renowned abortion provider, Dr. George Tiller, whose Kansas medical practice was at the center of torrent of violent protests and who was ultimately fatally shot by an anti-abortion extremist.

She acknowledged that the clinic will face opposition, including from members of Wyoming’s Legislature.

“Even though we all have different beliefs about abortion, one thing that we should be able to agree on is that women must be able to maintain the power to decide their own health care,” she said. “We hope that those who oppose our work will do so peacefully and without harassing or intimidating people seeking or providing reproductive health care.”

Protestors Galvanize

Right to Life of Wyoming President Marti Halverson told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that the clinic is an “abomination” and that her organization is already looking at several avenues to thwart its completion and opening.

“We are shocked,” she said. “We thought when we closed down the Planned Parenthood in 2017 that no one would try to come into Wyoming again.”

She also questioned the leadership behind Circle of Hope, noting the company’s address in Washington, D.C., is a simple mail drop box.

Sheila Leach, president of the Park County chapter of Right to Life of Wyoming, also expressed dismay at the news of a clinic in Casper and said that there is an ongoing grassroots effort involving pro-life activists across the state who are galvanizing in opposition to new clinic.

A pro-life Catholic group will be holding 40 days of prayer vigils beginning April 21, Leach said, which may continue until the clinic’s proposed opening.

“The purpose is to pray for the babies, the mother and the father and for the staff at the clinic,” Leach said. “And it’s always peaceful.”

Members from the Park County chapter may also go to Casper at some point, but she wasn’t sure when that might be.

“We are certainly concerned with this development,” she said.

Leach questioned the timing for the clinic’s opening, which comes on the heels of Gov. Mark Gordon’s signing of legislation that would automatically ban abortions in the state should the landmark U.S. Supreme Court abortion ruling Roe vs. Wade be overturned.

This was one of three proposed abortion measures up for consideration during the Legislature’s budget session and the only one that passed.

The bill would make abortion a criminal offense punishable by up to 14 years in prison should the federal case be overturned. Exceptions would be allowed in cases where the mother faces serious risks of death or irreversible physical impairments or in the case of rape or incest.

“(The clinic’s opening) feels like a pre-emptive challenge to the law,” Leach said.

Other legislators like Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, have been vocal in their dissent of the new clinic.

“With a Republican supermajority failing to pass any meaningful pro-life legislation, the baby murder mills see it as being a “safe place” to set up shop,” Bouchard said. “Sadly, there’s a large pro-abortion lobby in Wyoming that resides within the medical community. This new clinic is the sign that Wyoming is becoming more like Colorado.”

Current Abortion Laws

Under terms of the Roe vs. Wade ruling, abortion is legal in all states during the first trimester of pregnancy. Under Wyoming law, abortion is illegal if a fetus has reached viability – generally considered the point at which it can survive outside the mother’s womb – except to save the life of the mother.

Additional laws in Wyoming prevent physicians from terminating “viable infants,” as in late-term abortions, and require doctors to tell the patient she can view an active ultrasound of the unborn child and hear the heartbeat before the abortion.

According to Wyoming law, minors can only obtain an abortion with the permission of at least one guardian.

Public funding is available for abortion only if necessary to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest, and a law passed in 2019, requires healthcare providers to report all abortions to the Wyoming Department of Health.

According to this first report from the Vital Statistics Services, there were 91 abortions performed in Wyoming in 2020.

Of those abortions, all were medical, nonsurgical procedures with fetus gestation periods of 10 weeks or fewer. The majority of procedures – 45 – involved women 25-34 years old, followed by 29 women under the age of 24 and 17 women 35 years and older.

For the majority of the women it was the first procedure, while 21 women reported having an earlier medical, non-surgical abortion and five reported having two previous procedures.

Strong Support Locally

Although pro-life groups may oppose the clinic, groups supporting women’s access to reproductive health care are welcoming it.

Christine Lichtenfels, founder of Chelsea’s Fund, which supports Wyoming women’s access to abortion health care, told Cowboy State Daily that the clinic will allow Wyoming residents more access to the health care they need.

She noted that the clinic will do more than just provide abortions, it will also offer all types of reproductive care.

Lichtenfels said that people get abortions for various difficult reasons, such as abusive relationships or the inability to care for another child, but it is also their choice and right to do so.

“I am not going to accept the position that Wyoming is historically, staunchly anti-abortion,” she said. “U.S. Sen. Al Simpson was much more reflective of the true libertarian approach of Wyoming, where the government does not belong in telling people what to do in their individual lives.”

More than half of the women who seek abortions are already mothers.

Lichtenfels pointed to Colorado as a great example of lowering abortion rates by providing long-acting, but reversible, contraceptives for free and making them widely available.

But with the clinic opening in Wyoming, women are one step closer to having affordable, available reproductive health care closer to them.

“We’re very grateful that Circle of Hope is doing this to bring care to people in Wyoming,” Lichtenfels said. “In a state that calls itself the ‘Equality State,’ having access to abortion care means you’re valuing women as equals. They can make their own decisions and get the care they need.”

“The Craziness Stops Here”

Rev. Leslie Key of Casper said that she was approached by Burkhart to serve on the advisory board as a community liaison with other pro-choice advocates.

Key is thrilled that Circle of Hope chose Casper for its first clinic and said this has been a long-time battle both in the nation and the state.

As a member of the clergy, she has seen firsthand the impact that a lack of choice has on women. She noted women make the decision to end a pregnancy with great agony and prayerful conversations with their God.

“Nobody wants to use abortion as a form of birth control,” she said. “It’s a very personal and painful decision.”

Apart from a woman’s right to bodily autonomy, Key said she views the clinic as a much-needed pushback on members of the “religious right” who she feels have pushed their religious beliefs while overstepping the bounds of church and state.

“Why is a proud state that respects individual rights understating the difference between church and state?” she said. “It’s about bodily sovereignty. Who has control over your body? You or the religious right who are using the power of the government to dictate personal healthcare decisions? We’re not a theocracy controlled by one religious doctrine.”

To this end, Key also objected to those who believe their religious rights are favored over someone else’s.

“We have an opportunity to put our foot down and say no,” she said. “The craziness stops here.”

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