Lawsuit seeks to block abortion pill ban in Wyoming
By MEAD GRUVER
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Abortion-rights supporters filed an amended lawsuit Tuesday seeking to block Wyoming’s new abortion pill ban from taking effect.
A group hoping to open what would be the state’s second clinic offering abortions filed the amended lawsuit days after Republican Gov. Mark Gordon signed what is the nation’s first explicit ban on abortion pills. Absent court intervention, that ban would take effect July 1.
Abortion-rights supporters already were seeking to block a separate sweeping abortion ban that took effect Sunday in Wyoming without the governor’s signature. That law seeks to overcome objections that prompted a judge to suspend a previous ban.
The abortion pill ban and the sweeping ban conflict and create confusion about what is and isn’t permissible under the new laws, according to the lawsuit. If they’re allowed to be in effect, “the fundamental rights of Wyoming women and their families will be taken away by the state government and those rights will cease to exist,” the amended lawsuit said.
Both of the new Wyoming abortion bans make exceptions to save a pregnant woman’s life and for cases of rape or incest that are reported to police.
Until Gordon signed the ban on medication abortions, no state had passed a law specifically prohibiting such pills, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. However, abortion pills already were banned in 13 other states with blanket bans on abortion, and 15 states already had limited access to the pills.
Medication abortions also are a target of a separate lawsuit in Texas, where abortion opponents have asked a federal judge to reverse the Food and Drug Administration’s 2000 approval of mifepristone. A two-pill combination of mifepristone and another drug is the most common form of abortion in the U.S.
Wyoming has only one abortion provider, a women’s health clinic in Jackson that only provides medication abortions but has canceled appointments after the state’s broad ban took effect this week. Teton County District Court Judge Melissa Owens is scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday to consider whether to block that new ban while the legal challenge over it moves ahead.
Wellspring Health Access, which is seeking to block the abortion pill ban and the broader measure, has been planning to open a clinic in Casper that would provide surgical and medication abortions. After an arson attack prevented that clinic from opening as planned last summer, organizers hoped to open it next month.
“Wyomingites deserve access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care, including both surgical and medication abortion, and that’s why we are fighting to keep medication abortion legal in Wyoming,” Julie Burkart, president of Wellspring Health Access said in a statement.
Also suing are four women, including two gynecologists, and Chelsea’s Fund, a Wyoming abortion access advocacy group.
Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill “will vigorously defend the legality of this law, just as she does with all statutes when their constitutionality is challenged,” Gordon spokesman Michael Pearlman said by email.
Until this week, abortion had remained legal in Wyoming despite a ban that followed the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn its landmark Roe v. Wade abortion ruling. In putting that ban on hold in July, Owens ruled that it stood to harm women with pregnancy complications and their doctors.
She also found that a 2012 state constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to make one’s own health care decisions could allow abortion.
The new sweeping ban asserts that abortion is not health care and the amendment therefore doesn’t apply to abortion.
Since the reversal of the Roe in June, abortion restrictions have been up to states, and the landscape has shifted quickly.
Other states where courts have put on hold bans or deep restrictions are Arizona, Indiana, Montana, Ohio, South Carolina and Utah. Idaho courts forced the state to allow abortions during medical emergencies.