CHEYENNE, Wyoming (AP) — Abortion rights advocates on Tuesday filed an amended lawsuit seeking to block the entry into force of Wyoming’s new abortion pill ban.
A group hoping to open what would have been the state’s second clinic offering abortions filed the amended lawsuit just days after Republican Gov. Mark Gordon signed into law what is the nation’s first outright ban on abortion pills. In the absence of court intervention, this ban would take effect on 1 July.
Abortion-rights advocates were already trying to block a separate sweeping abortion ban that went into effect in Wyoming on Sunday 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 allowed under the new laws, according to the lawsuit. If allowed to be in effect, “the basic rights of Wyoming women and their families will be taken away from state government and those rights will cease to exist,” the amended lawsuit said.
Both of Wyoming’s new abortion bans make exceptions for saving a pregnant woman’s life and for cases of rape or incest reported to the police.
Until Gordon signed off on a ban on medical abortions, no state had passed a law specifically banning such pills, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that advocates for abortion rights. However, abortion pills had already been banned in 13 other states with blanket abortion bans, and 15 states already had limited access to the pills.
Medical abortions are also the target of a separate lawsuit in Texas, where abortion opponents have asked a federal judge to overturn the Food and Drug Administration’s 2000 approval of mifepristone. A combination of two mifepristone pills and another drug is the most common form of abortion in the United States
Wyoming has only one abortion provider, a women’s health clinic in Jackson that provides only medical abortions but canceled appointments after the state’s sweeping ban went into effect this week. Teton County District Court Judge Melissa Owens will hold a hearing Wednesday to consider whether to block the new ban as the legal challenge over it moves forward.
Wellspring Health Access, which is trying to block the abortion pill ban and broader measure, plans to open a clinic in Casper that provides surgical and drug abortions. After an arson attack prevented the clinic from opening as planned last summer, organizers were hoping to open it next month.
“Wyoming residents deserve access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care, including surgical and medical abortion, which is why we are fighting to keep medical abortion legal in Wyoming,” said Julie Burkart, president of Wellspring Health Access.
They also sued four women, including two gynecologists, and Chelsea’s Fund, an abortion access advocacy group in Wyoming.
Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill “will vigorously defend the legality of this law, just as she does all statutes when their constitutionality is challenged,” Gordon spokesman Michael Pearlman said by email.
Up until this week, abortion had remained legal in Wyoming despite a ban following the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn its landmark abortion ruling Roe v. Wade. In lifting that ban in July, Owens ruled it would harm women with pregnancy complications and their doctors.
It also found that a 2012 state constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to make one’s own health care decisions could allow abortions.
The sweeping new ban states that abortion is not health care and therefore the amendment does not apply to abortion.
Since the reversal of roe deer in June, abortion restrictions have been decided by states and the landscape has changed rapidly.
Other states where courts have lifted bans or harsh restrictions include Arizona, Indiana, Montana, Ohio, South Carolina and Utah. Courts in Idaho forced the state to allow abortions during medical emergencies.