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Judge temporarily halts Wyoming abortion ban amid legal challenge

<i>Kathryn Ziesig/AP</i><br/>Dr. Giovannina Anthony
Kathryn Ziesig/AP
Dr. Giovannina Anthony

By Andy Rose and Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN

A Wyoming district court judge has temporarily blocked a state abortion ban that went into effect over the weekend, count documents show.

Judge Melissa Owens of the Teton County District Court granted the restraining order Wednesday, blocking enforcement of the anti-abortion law while the court considers a legal challenge brought against the state by abortion providers.

The sweeping ban, called the “Life is a Human Right Act,” went into effect Sunday and prohibits abortion in most circumstances, only providing exceptions for incest, sexual assault, cases of “lethal fetal anomaly” or when the pregnant person’s life is in danger.

Violation of the law is a felony and carries penalties of up to five years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

“Abortion as defined in this act is not health care,” the act says, citing the Wyoming constitution. “Instead of being health care, abortion is the intentional termination of the life of an unborn baby.”

When the law passed Friday, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, a Republican, expressed concern that “this new law will only result in a new lawsuit, which will delay any resolution to the constitutionality of the abortion ban in Wyoming,” his office said in a statement.

Also on Friday, Gordon signed a separate bill into law that makes it a felony to prescribe, sell, or use abortion medications. The legislation takes effect July 1.

Following the passage of the two laws, Mini Timmaraju, president of abortion-rights advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America, said the bans “should alarm everybody in every corner of our country.”

There’s no stone that anti-choice extremists will leave unturned as they seek to do everything they can to ensure that abortion is banned across the nation,” Timmaraju said in a statement. “This first-of-its-kind ban on medication abortion, as well as the total ban, are just the latest proof.”

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CNN’s Jay Croft contributed to this report.

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