By Mead Gruver | Associated Press
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Abortion will again be legal in Wyoming — at least for now — after a judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked a ban that took effect a few days earlier.
Teton County District Court Judge Melissa Owens’ decision halts the ban amid a challenge in her court to a law that took effect Sunday. The Republican-controlled Legislature approved the law despite earlier rulings by Owens that had blocked a previous ban since shortly after it took effect last summer.
Owens put the new ban on hold after a hearing Wednesday in which abortion-rights supporters said the law harms pregnant women and their doctors. Owens suspended the ban for at least two weeks.The law prohibits abortion at all stages of pregnancy except in cases of rape or incest that’s reported to police, or to save a woman’s life.
The judge did not weigh in on another new abortion law that’s also being challenged in her court: Wyoming’s first-in-the-nation ban on abortion pills. That law, signed by Republican Gov. Mark Gordon on Friday, is not set to take effect until July 1.
Two nonprofits, two doctors and two other women have sued to block Wyoming’s broader abortion 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.
Source: Orange County Register
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