CHEYENNE, Wyoming (AP) — Wyoming has moved to the forefront of state efforts to ban the most common type of abortion by instituting the nation’s first outright ban on pills that terminate pregnancies.
Medical abortions, which usually involve taking two prescribed medications days apart at home or at the clinic, became the preferred method of terminating pregnancy in the United States even before the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade – and now account for more than half of all abortions according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that advocates for abortion rights.
More than a dozen states now effectively ban abortion pills by outlawing all forms of abortion, moves made after the US Supreme Court overturned its landmark Roe v. Wade last year.
Fifteen states restrict access to pills. Of these, six — Arizona, Indiana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota and South Carolina — require a doctor to administer them in person. Arizona also bans the shipment of abortion pills.
But before a law signed Friday by Republican Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon, no state has specifically banned abortion pills. The law passed alongside a new abortion ban that seeks to circumvent problems with a previous state ban that has been held up in court.
With two new abortion laws, the Wyoming legislature was “trying to cover all its bases” to ban abortions, said Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute.
Gordon allowed the sweeping new abortion ban to take effect Sunday without his signature. It remains to be seen whether the abortion pill ban he signed into force will go into effect on July 1 as planned. It could be delayed in the courts if an abortion provider in the state sues it. Meanwhile, a Texas federal judge is hearing a case with implications for access to the abortion pill nationwide
Here’s a look at where abortion is in Wyoming and elsewhere:
IS ABORTION NOW ILLEGAL IN WYOMING?
YES. Since Sunday, abortions in all forms are illegal.
The only clinic in the state that provided abortions until the ban was in the touristy mountain town of Jackson. Another clinic in Casper was due to open last year before an arson attack delayed plans. The clinic, Wellspring Health Access, was hoping to open next month but plans are now uncertain.
Even before the ban, many women in Wyoming traveled to Colorado and elsewhere to get an abortion because it was cheaper. There is no ban on women in Wyoming continuing to travel out of the state to seek an abortion.
WHY DID WYOMING TAKE SUCH AGGRESSIVE ACTION?
Wyoming has long been a deeply conservative state, but one that has often avoided weighing in on social issues: live and let live is a creed of rural life in the West.
This is changing. With a state legislature more dominated by Republicans than at any time in a century, leaders are able to delve into culture war issues with almost no opposition.
Last year, Gordon signed an abortion ban that went into effect a month after the Supreme Court overthrew Roe. Within hours, Teton County District Judge Melissa Owens suspended the ban, ruling that a lawsuit’s claim would harm pregnant women and their doctors could have merit.
The two nonprofits and four women, including two midwives, who sued, also argued that the ban violated a 2012 state constitutional amendment that guarantees the right to make one’s own health care decisions.
State attorneys said that wasn’t the intent: The amendment was passed in response to the Affordable Care Act that seeks to expand health coverage nationwide.
This year, Wyoming lawmakers settled the lawsuit with a new blanket abortion ban that specifies that abortion is not a health care and therefore not protected by the state constitution.
WHAT DO LEGISLATORS IN OTHER STATES DO?
Most Republican-controlled states enacted abortion bans or tougher restrictions in anticipation that Roe v. Wade would have been flipped.
And last year, several Democrat-controlled states enacted abortion access protections.
But that didn’t end the legislative battles.
This month, Utah passed legislation to ban abortion clinics, making it the first state to take such action. It comes as a state ban on abortions in all stages of pregnancy is stymied by a legal challenge.
In Florida, lawmakers are trying to figure out which bans to put in place. Florida previously put in place a ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which is far more flexible than what other GOP-controlled states have done; a new measure to ban them after six weeks is moving through the legislature. Gov. Ron DeSantis, a possible 2024 presidential candidate, is expected to sign it if he gets to it.
In South Carolina, also dominated by the GOP, lawmakers are debating what kind of ban to try after a six-week abortion ban was thrown out by the state supreme court.
In Minnesota, a state in which last year’s elections gave Democrats full control of government, the governor signed into additional abortion access protections this year.
Geoff Mulvihill of Cherry Hill, New Jersey contributed to this report.