Even Wyoming's GOP governor admits abortion bill 'will harm people'

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The governor admitted the bill could hurt families.

In a surprising move, Wyoming's staunch anti-abortion governor, Republican Mark Gordon, recently vetoed a bill that targets later abortions.

The Wyoming Legislature passed an abortion bill in early March that would have required doctors to provide medical treatment to, in the bill's words, "any viable infant aborted alive," even if there were no chance for its survival.

But, as Gordon noted when vetoing the bill, "Laws already in place protect children from being denied lifesaving care."

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Gordon also said he blocked the law because it "will harm people it never intended to harm — parents who want a child, but have received the devastating news that their pregnancy is not viable." 

The governor expressed concern that the bill would interfere in the relationship between patients and their doctor, saying it could "eliminate the opportunity for a child to pass away in the loving arms of parents" and instead require "a situation where the child might still pass away in the midst of stressful, painful and futile efforts to resuscitate."

Republicans at the state and federal levels have been fixated on passing so-called "born-alive" abortion bills, which purport to protect a child born in the process of an abortion. 

In reality, these bills are unnecessary. As attorney and professor Neil Siegel told PolitiFact, "There is no lack of statutory or constitutional law that would protect babies through a live birth or a failed abortion."

But the bills can work as an intimidation tool against abortion providers, chipping away at their role in helping patients decide what's best for them while often threatening substantial penalties. Wyoming's vetoed bill threatened both doctors and patients with a potential felony charge if they were considered in violation of the law.

Opponents of "born-alive" bills argue that they're designed to make it harder for people to have abortions and to stigmatize those people who choose to have a later abortion. 

Dr. Kristyn Brandi, an advocate with Physicians for Reproductive Health, told Vox in 2019 that this type of legislation "maligns and vilifies providers and patients to push a false narrative about abortion later in pregnancy." Brandi, who is also an abortion provider, said she had never heard of a case of a child born after an attempted abortion.

Wyoming has seen increased attacks on abortion rights in recent years. Two anti-abortion bills enacted in 2017 were the first to pass in the state in 30 years, according to Better Wyoming.

Reproductive rights research organization Guttmacher Institute reports that the state had only two abortion providers as of 2017.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.