By MEAD GRUVER
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A lawsuit filed Monday by a Casper women’s health clinic and others seeks to block Wyoming’s new abortion ban just before it’s scheduled to take effect.
The lawsuit claims the new law violates the state constitution with restrictions that will discourage potentially lifesaving pregnancy healthcare in Wyoming, forcing pregnant women to go to other states for necessary procedures.
As with all Wyoming laws challenged in court, Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill will defend the new law set to go into effect Wednesday, Michael Pearlman, spokesman for Gov. Mark Gordon, said by email.
Gordon, a Republican, signed the ban on nearly all abortion in Wyoming in March.
The ban was to take effect if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which happened June 24. After a more than three-week review, Hill last week gave the go-ahead for Gordon to certify the law to take effect this Wednesday.
The law will outlaw abortions except in cases of rape or incest or to protect the mother’s life or health, not including psychological conditions. Wyoming until now has allowed abortions up to the point of viability outside the mother, or around 23 weeks into pregnancy.
The lawsuit filed in Teton County District Court by four Wyoming women and two nonprofits seeking to maintain abortion access claims the new law violates several rights guaranteed by the state constitution, including a “fundamental right to be left alone by the government.”
The lawsuit claims the abortion ban will harm the women — two obstetricians, a pregnant nurse and a University of Wyoming law student — by outlawing potentially life-saving treatment options for their patients or themselves.
For example, the ban would force one of the women, Dr. Giovannina Anthony, a Jackson OB-GYN, to decline care to women with desired pregnancies out of concern she could go to jail if a miscarriage resulted in prosecution, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit could meanwhile discourage procedures performed by Dr. Rene Hinkle, a Cheyenne OB-GYN, to remove miscarried fetuses or end pregnancies occurring outside the uterus out of concern she could be prosecuted, according to the lawsuit.
The law could also discourage pregnant patients with complications from seeking care out of fear they could be prosecuted, the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit’s other plaintiffs include the Chelsea’s Fund, a nonprofit providing information about abortion options and financial help to women seeking them, and the Wellspring Health Access women’s and LGBTQ healthcare clinic in Casper.
An arson attack in late May heavily damaged the clinic just a few weeks before it was set to open, delaying the opening by several months. Police have reported no arrests.
Also suing are Danielle Johnson, of Teton County, a Wyoming hospital nurse who is 22 weeks pregnant and who asserts the law will limit treatment options for her patients and herself; and University of Wyoming law student Kathleen Dow, who plans to have a family soon but now faces similar restrictions, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit asks for a judge to declare the abortion ban unconstitutional and to bar its enforcement.
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