Lawmakers in Wyoming approved measures on Thursday that will make it nearly impossible to terminate a pregnancy, part of a dramatic reshaping of laws governing abortion across the country in the post-Roe v. Wade era.
The bills were passed by both houses of the state legislature and await the signature of Gov. Mark Gordon (R), who has approved antiabortion measures in the past. Gordon has 15 calendar days to act on the bills and will consider them carefully, said his spokesman Michael Pearlman.
The measures are part of a push by Wyoming lawmakers to close gaps and eliminate legal weaknesses in the state’s earlier abortion ban, whose implementation was halted by a judge last year.
Wyoming was one of more than a dozen states to pass abortion bans designed to take effect when the Supreme Court overturned Roe, the landmark 1973 precedent that guaranteed a constitutional right to abortion.
Such abortion bans have been challenged in court. In Wyoming, a judge issued a preliminary injunction suspending the ban, noting that the measure might violate the state constitution, which explicitly guarantees adults the right to make their own health-care decisions.
In response, state lawmakers drafted a more sweeping antiabortion measure — titled the Life is a Human Right Act — to supersede the earlier ban. It states that abortion is “not health care” but “the intentional termination of the life of an unborn baby.”
The original version of the bill prohibited abortion even in cases of rape and incest and included language interpreting the state constitution to favor an abortion ban, an unusual addition that some lawmakers warned infringed on the power of the judiciary.
The leader of the Wyoming Senate delayed consideration of the bill for several weeks. The final version approved by both houses removed the controversial language interpreting the state constitution. It also reinstated exemptions for rape and incest, but requires women and others seeking abortions to first report the crimes to law enforcement and provide their physicians with a copy of the report.
The bill allows abortions to prevent the death of a pregnant person and when a “lethal fetal anomaly” means there is a substantial risk a baby will die within hours of birth.
Lawmakers also approved a blanket ban on medication abortion in Wyoming. The bill makes it illegal to “prescribe, dispense, distribute, sell or use” any drug for the purpose of performing an abortion.
There are exemptions for cases of rape and incest, as well as situations of “imminent peril” that endanger a woman’s life or health. However, the bill explicitly excludes psychological and emotional distress as a source of life-threatening peril, even if a pregnant person is suicidal.
Women and other pregnant individuals will not be prosecuted under the measure, but any physician or other person found guilty of breaking the law faces up to six months in prison.
Abortion has remained technically legal in Wyoming up to the point of fetal viability because of the judge’s injunction issued in August. Women in Wyoming could also access medication abortions up to 10 weeks into their pregnancies.
“The decision to have an abortion is personal, with no room for any legislative body,” wrote Julie Burkhart, the founder of Wellspring Health Access, which attempted to open an abortion clinic in Wyoming last year and is one of the parties challenging the state’s earlier abortion ban. “These bills will hurt people.”