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Wyoming’s Ban on Abortion Pill Blocked by Judge

Access to abortion pills is restricted in more than a dozen other states

A state judge has stopped a ban on abortion pills from going into effect in Wyoming, just over a week before it was scheduled to take effect on July 1.

Wyoming was the first state in America to formally ban the pills used to induce a medical abortion. Abortion pills accounted for half of all abortions in the United States in 2020. 

Medical abortions involve a two-pill regimen taken over the course of several hours during the first eight weeks of pregnancy. The pills cause uterine cramping and bleeding, ultimately leading the body to dispel the embryo. 

Access to abortion pills is restricted in some capacity in fifteen states. 

The ban was passed by the state legislature in March alongside the Life is a Human Right Act – House Bill 152 – which states abortion is not a form of health care. Under the law, mifepristone, misoprostol, mifeprex, mifegyne, “or any substantially similar generic or non-generic or chemical dispensed for purposes of causing an abortion,” are prohibited, per Source NM. The policy bars not only the distribution and prescription of the banned substances but also the manufacturing, selling or transferring of the substances within the states. Violation of the law is punishable by up to six months in prison and a $9,000 fine.

The person who undergoes a medical abortion in violation of the law will not be prosecuted. The law also grants exceptions if the medication is needed to save a mother’s life, to treat a natural miscarriage, or if the pregnancy was conceived through rape or incest. A mother’s well-being pertains to her physical health and not her mental health – thereby eliminating the risk of suicide as a justification for medical abortion. 

A coalition of abortion providers, nonprofit organizations and Wellspring Health Access – an abortion clinic that opened in Casper in April – sued to block the law from taking effect.

Following Teton County Judge Melissa Owens’s intervention, abortion pills will remain legal in Wyoming while the lawsuit is decided. Owens found the plaintiffs had “clearly showed probable success on the merits,” per NPR.

Part of the case focuses on a 2012 amendment to the state constitution, created in response to the Affordable Care Act. 

Each competent adult shall have the right to make his or her own health care decisions. The parent, guardian or legal representative of any other natural person shall have the right to make health care decisions for that person,” states the amendment states.

Owens also temporarily blocked the Life is a Human Right Act in March and subsequently combined the lawsuits against each law into one case.

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon signed the abortion pill ban and the Life is a Human Right Act shortly after its passage. 

“I believe this question needs to be decided as soon as possible so that the issue of abortion in Wyoming can be finally resolved, and that is best done with a vote of the people,” the Republican said, per The New York Post.

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