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Judge to Consider Allowing Abortions to Resume in Wyoming

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A judge will hear arguments Wednesday over whether abortions will be allowed in Wyoming while a sweeping new ban gets challenged in her court.

The ban took effect Sunday, making abortion illegal in Wyoming despite earlier rulings by Teton County District Court Judge Melissa Owens that blocked an earlier ban hours after it took effect last summer.

Owens will now consider whether to block the new ban, too, while a lawsuit proceeds.

She’s not expected to immediately weigh in, though, on a different new Wyoming abortion law: a first-in-the-nation ban on abortion pills. Abortion-rights supporters are also seeking to stop that law, signed by Republican Gov. Mark Gordon on Friday, but it is not set to take effect until July 1.

So far, Owens has sympathized somewhat with the two nonprofits, two doctors and two other women who have sued to block Wyoming’s broader abortions bans.

In July, Owens found that their concerns that the law would harm women and doctors and violate the state constitution could have merit. State lawmakers then wrote their new law to try to override those objections.

Owens in her July decision found that a 2012 state constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to make one’s own health care decisions could allow abortion.

The new sweeping ban asserts that abortion is not health care and the amendment therefore doesn’t apply to abortion.

Gordon expressed reservations about the new ban, even as he allowed it to take effect without his signature. He said voters should resolve the constitutionality of abortion in Wyoming instead of the Legislature addressing abortion piecemeal, year after year.

Wyoming has only one abortion provider, a women’s health clinic in Jackson that only provides medication abortions but has been forced to stop after the state’s broad ban took effect this week.

Wellspring Health Access has been planning to open a clinic in Casper that would provide surgical and medication abortions. After an arson attack prevented that clinic from opening as planned last summer, organizers hoped to open it next month.

 

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