Wyoming advances a new abortion ban to replace blocked ‘trigger law’

 

A sonogram picture of a fetus in the second trimester of a woman’s pregnancy / Shutterstock

St. Louis, Mo., Mar 9, 2023 / 14:02 pm (CNA).

Lawmakers in Wyoming have sent a new abortion ban to the governor’s desk to be signed into law, in an attempt to end abortions in the western state after a previous abortion ban, which first came into effect last summer, was blocked in court.

House Bill 152, known as the “Life is a Human Right Act,” includes language clarifying that abortion is not healthcare but rather the “intentional termination of the life of an unborn baby,” which is a human and should therefore have the rights of a human.

“It is within the authority of the state of Wyoming to determine reasonable and necessary restrictions upon abortion, including its prohibition,” the act reads.

“The legislature, in the exercise of its constitutional duties and powers, has a fundamental duty to provide equal protection for all human lives, including unborn babies from conception.”

The legislation bans abortion throughout pregnancy but carves out specific exceptions to allow doctors to perform abortions to preserve the life or health of the mother, in cases of rape or incest, or in the case of a diagnosed lethal fetal anomaly. The act also clarifies that care for women suffering from an ectopic pregnancy, as well as procedures to care for a woman following a miscarriage, are not considered abortions and will not be affected by the law.

The act would make the performing of an illegal abortion a felony punishable by a fine of up to $20,000, imprisonment for not more than five years, or both. In addition, a doctor performing an abortion could lose their license. The act provides no penalty for the woman seeking an abortion.

The Wyoming House approved the bill on a 46-16 vote on Feb. 8. The Senate approved it March 1 with 25 voting for the bill, five voting against it and one legislator absent, the Cody Enterprise newspaper reported.

Wyoming has a “trigger law” in place that banned all abortions, with a few exceptions, upon the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which took place last June. On July 21, 2022, Attorney General Bridget Hill informed Gov. Mark Gordon that the trigger law will be fully authorized, allowing it to come into effect. That law also had exceptions for rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger.

A few Wyoming lawmakers expressed concerns that the new law is very similar to the trigger law, which got blocked last year.

On July 27, 2022, a Wyoming court put a temporary hold on the enactment of the trigger law. The law is now blocked indefinitely while legal challenges play out in court after Teton County District Court Judge Melissa Owens approved a new preliminary injunction Aug. 11.

Sponsored by Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams (R-Cody) — the lawmaker who sponsored the state’s trigger law — the Life is a Human Right Act is currently awaiting the signature of Republican Gov. Mark Gordon. Gordon signed Wyoming’s trigger law into effect last year, saying he did so because he believes that the decision to regulate abortions should be left to the states. Gordon has signed other pro-life legislation during his tenure, including a bill requiring any physician performing an abortion to “take medically appropriate and reasonable steps to preserve the life and health of an infant born alive.”

As of December 2022, Wyoming has only one abortion clinic in the state, a private clinic located in Jackson.

If the new law comes into effect, Wyoming will be the 12th state to successfully ban abortion. Several other states’ complete bans are blocked in court.

See CNA article for interactive map.

 


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