Wyoming Republicans inadvertently helped block an anti-abortion law in the state
Conservatives supported an amendment to the state Constitution protecting citizens’ right to determine their health care after the Affordable Care Act passed. That decision has returned to haunt them.
In a ruling on March 22 in a lawsuit brought by abortion rights advocates in Wyoming, Teton County District Court Judge Melissa Owens temporarily blocked an abortion ban that had just taken effect in the state.
The plaintiffs in the case include Dr. Giovannina Anthony, an obstetrician-gynecologist who works at the state’s only abortion clinic, in Jackson, and Wellspring Health Access, a group that plans to open a clinic in the city of Casper, the New York Times reports. They had requested an injunction against the ban, contained in H.B. 0152, called the Life is a Human Right Act, which took effect on March 18.
Wyoming lawmakers passed H.B. 0152, a comprehensive near-total abortion ban that makes the procedure a felony punishable by up to a $20,000 fine and a possible five-year prison sentence, at the beginning of the month; they additionally passed S.F. 0109 on March 17 “prohibiting chemical abortions.”
Both laws include exceptions in cases of rape or incest or when medically necessary to save the pregnant person’s life.
In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs cited a decade-old amendment to the state’s Constitution that was passed via a ballot measure in 2012 as a reaction to the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. As the website Bolts noted in an article published on March 3, conservative lawmakers had said Obamacare trespassed on the rights of citizens. The amendment says, “Each competent adult shall have the right to make his or her own health care decisions.”
Using the amendment as a basis for their arguments, the plaintiffs’ lawyers wrote in their filing, “HB152 and SF 109, like the trigger ban, are unconstitutional intrusions into Wyomingites’ privacy and fundamental Constitutional rights – rights of religious freedom, to make health care decisions, to self-determined family composition, and equal protection under the laws, among others.”
Their case also rests on an argument that abortion care is health care, which the Life is a Human Right Act specifically denies, reading: “Abortion, as defined in this act, is not health care. Instead of being health care, abortion is the intentional termination of the life of an unborn baby. It is within the authority of the state of Wyoming to determine reasonable and necessary restrictions upon abortion, including its prohibition.”
The suit challenges both the state’s ban on abortion “at all stages of pregnancy” and its ban on the use of abortion medication.
Both suits will head to a hearing in the future, The New York Times reports, where attorneys will likely ask for an injunction until the cases can be heard in their entirety.
“The state can not legislate away a constitutional right. It’s not clear whether abortion is or isn’t health care and the court has to then decide that,” Judge Owens said in her oral decision.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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