By Dave Andrusko
Teton County District Judge Melissa Owens, who has blocked two Wyoming pro-life laws from taking effect three times in the past year and a half, heard arguments for almost four hours Thursday “whether to strike down, affirm or hold a trial over the state’s abortion bans, including its first-in-the-nation explicit prohibition on the use of medication to end pregnancy,” reported Mead Gruver of the Associated Press.
“Both sides have asked Owens to issue a ruling without holding a bench trial that is scheduled to begin April 15.”
Doubtless whichever side loses will appeal to the Wyoming Supreme Court.
One law, HB0152, the Life is a Human Right Act, protects unborn babies except in cases of rape or incest or to save a woman’s life. The other–Senate Enrolled Act 93–made Wyoming the first state to specifically make it illegal “to prescribe, dispense, distribute, sell or use any drug for the purpose of procuring or performing an abortion on any person,” with the exceptions for rape, incest, miscarriages and when the mother’s life is at risk.
Anyone guilty of violating Senate Enrolled Act 93 would be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in prison and a $9,000 fine. “The law explicitly says that pregnant patients will be exempt from charges and penalties,” The New York Times reported.
“I have a strong record of protecting the lives of the unborn, as well as their mothers,” Gov. Mark Gordon said in a letter to Chuck Gray, Wyoming’s Secretary of State. “I believe all life is sacred and that every individual, including the unborn, should be treated with dignity and compassion.” The law would have taken effect on July 1.
The litigants “argued that the bans stood to harm their health, well-being and livelihoods, claims disputed by attorneys for the state,” Gruver wrote. “The women and nonprofits also argued the bans violated a 2012 state constitutional amendment saying competent Wyoming residents have a right to make their own health care decisions, an argument Owens has said had merit.”
But Gruver added, “Attorneys for the state argued that health care, under the amendment, didn’t include abortion.”
Four women, including two obstetricians, and two nonprofit organizations, challenged HB0152 and Senate Enrolled Act 93.
Wyoming’s two abortion laws “are not enforceable now, as Owens has blocked them while contemplating this case. Abortion is legal up to the point of viability in Wyoming,” Clair McFarland reported.