Wyoming becomes first state to ban abortion pills
Medical abortion is already banned in states that have outright bans, since those bans already ban all forms of abortion.
Governor Mark Gordon of Wyoming, a Republican, signed that state’s abortion pill ban the same day he said he would allow another, more sweeping measure banning abortion to become law without his signature. The law, which comes into effect on Sunday, would ban abortion in almost all circumstances, making it a crime to perform an abortion.
“I acted without bias and after long prayers to allow these bills to become law,” Mr. Gordon wrote in a letter to the Wyoming secretary of state released Friday evening.
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Mr Gordon said in the letter that he withheld his signature of the broader abortion ban because he feared it would complicate matters in an ongoing legal battle over a previous abortion ban passed by Wyoming lawmakers.
The broader ban also prohibits medical abortion, and the measure that bans abortion pills would primarily add additional penalties to medical abortion providers.
Both laws are likely to be challenged quickly in court by abortion providers, who will seek to prevent the bans from taking effect during the legal challenge process. A previously enacted abortion ban has so far been blocked by the courts after providers and others filed a lawsuit claiming the law violated the guarantee of freedom in healthcare decisions. of the Wyoming State Constitution. The new abortion ban is an attempt to circumvent this constitutional provision by declaring that abortion is not health care.
Wyoming’s abortion pill law would take effect July 1 and would make it illegal to “prescribe, dispense, dispense, sell, or use any drug for the purpose of procuring or performing an abortion.” Doctors or anyone else found guilty of violating this law would be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $9,000 fine. The law explicitly says that pregnant patients will be exempt from fees and penalties.
Wyoming has only one clinic that offers abortions, the Women’s Health & Family Care Clinic in Jackson. It only provides medical abortion, not surgery.
Earlier versions of the bill had named specific drugs: mifepristone and two branded versions of it as well as misoprostol, the second drug used in the medical abortion regimen.
But doctors testified in objection, pointing out that misoprostol, in particular, has many other medical uses, including helping pregnant patients deliver successfully. Doctors have raised concerns that pharmacists would be afraid to stock any of the drugs, and some Republicans have said the names of abortive drugs could simply be changed to circumvent the law. As a result, the final wording was expanded to prohibit the use of any abortion drug without mentioning specific drugs.
At least three other bills have been introduced in 2023 that seek to ban medical abortion. In Iowa, the bill did not pass until the end of the legislative session, and in Hawaii, a Democratic state, the bill appears unlikely to pass.
A bill introduced in Texas, a state that already bans abortion, includes numerous provisions aimed at shutting down all access to the pills, including making it difficult for Texas patients to learn about or use abortion services out of state. The bill would make it illegal to manufacture, distribute, or “supply any abortion-inducing drug in any way to or from any person or place in this state.”
It would also be illegal to “create, modify, upload, publish, host, maintain, or register a domain name for any website, platform, or other interactive computer service that assists or facilitates a person’s efforts to obtain an abortion causing an abortion”. medication.”
Many patients learn about abortion options from websites like Plan C, a medical abortion information center. And a growing number of patients in abortion-banning states are arranging to receive pills through telemedicine websites like Aid Access, a Europe-based service that ships pills to any state from India, and Hey Jane, one of several US-based services that will provide pills to patients traveling to a state where abortion is legal and where they can receive the drugs by mail in those states.
In addition to Wyoming’s law banning abortion pills, 15 states restrict access to medical abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group supporting abortion rights. These restrictions range from requiring the drugs to be provided by a physician to requiring the patient to have an in-person visit with a physician. Several states, including Texas and Arizona, have banned the mailing of abortion pills, and bills to ban the mailing of pills have been introduced in at least three other states this year. .
“We are seeing efforts to further ban access to medical abortion because abortion opponents recognize that even with abortion bans in effect in 12 states and lack of access in two others, patients can still get abortion pills,” said Elizabeth Nash of the state. policy analyst for the Guttmacher Institute. “Now abortion opponents have turned to the courts, attorneys general and state legislatures to further limit access to the pills.”
Since January, when newly elected legislatures began meeting for the first time since the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision ended the national abortion right, more than 500 abortion-related bills have been offered in the states of the country.
Some states where Democratic legislatures have strong — even unexpected — majorities are taking steps to strengthen abortion protections. In Minnesota, the first bill of the 2023 legislature, which made it harder for future legislatures and governors to weaken those protections, was signed into law in January by Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat. In Michigan, the legislature repealed an abortion ban and Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, is expected to sign it.
But the majority of new bills aim to restrict access to abortion. And with several states now wrapping up their legislative sessions, bills are beginning to land on governors’ desks.
Under Wyoming’s other new law, the Life Is a Human Right Act, performing an abortion or administering abortion drugs would be considered a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. and doctors would have their licenses revoked. The law prohibits abortion with some exceptions for rape, incest, and serious risk to the life or health of the pregnant patient.
“While other states push an extreme abortion program, comparable to the inhumane laws of North Korea and China, Wyoming is a pro-life state, affirming that life is a human right and guaranteeing that women have real support,” said State Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, the bill’s sponsor.
The law is intended to replace an existing ban, which is now on hold due to a legal challenge to its constitutionality. It remains to be seen, however, how this affects the actions of the Wyoming Supreme Court.
The problem is the definition of health care: Under the Wyoming Constitution, residents have the right to make their own health care decisions. Thus, the new law stipulates that abortion is not health care.
“Instead of being health care, abortion is the intentional termination of the life of an unborn baby,” the new law states. “It is within the authority of the State of Wyoming to determine reasonable and necessary restrictions on abortion, including its prohibition.”