USA TODAY International Edition
Wyo. abortion ban is temporarily blocked
A Wyoming judge temporarily blocked a state abortion ban that took effect over the weekend, a decision that makes abortion legal in the state for now.
Teton County District Court Judge Melissa Owens granted an order Wednesday blocking the law's enforcement for at least two weeks as the court considers a lawsuit filed against the state by abortion providers.
The sweeping Life is a Human Right Act bans abortions in the state at all stages of pregnancy, except in cases of rape or incest or to save the pregnant person's life.
Owens did not weigh in on another abortion law set to take effect July 1 that bans the manufacturing, distribution and sale of abortion pills. Wyoming is the first state in the country to ban abortion pills.
The decision comes after a hearing Wednesday during which abortion access advocates argued the law harms pregnant people and violates rights granted in the state Constitution.
An amendment in the Wyoming Constitution says adults have a right to make their own health care decisions. As a result, Republican lawmakers defined abortion as “not health care” in the ban.
Owens said it's up to the courts, not lawmakers, to decide what constitutes health care in this case.
“The state can not legislate away a constitutional right,” Owens said in an oral decision. “It's not clear whether abortion is health care. The court has to then decide that.”
Wyoming governor, abortion rights advocates respond
Republican Gov. Mark Gordon said in a statement that he was disappointed by the judge's ruling but looked forward to defending the abortion ban in court.
Meanwhile, Julie Burkhart, president of the abortion access nonprofit Wellspring Health Access, celebrated the decision.
“We are relieved and delighted that abortion will remain legal in Wyoming,” she said in a statement. “Regardless of how anti- choice legislators try to spin it, abortion is health care, and Wyomingites have a constitutional right to that care.”
The nonprofit is preparing to open the state's only full- service clinic to provide surgical and medication abortions in Casper after its opening was delayed by an arson fire last year. Wyoming has only one other abortion provider, in Jackson.