National News

Wyoming’s Abortion Pill Ban Blocked While Lawsuit Proceeds

The dome of the Wyoming Capitol in Cheyenne is pictured May 6, 2021. A judge ruled June 22, 2023, that Wyoming’s first-in-the-nation law to ban abortion pills won’t take effect July 1 as planned. (OSV News photo)

By Maria-Pia Negro Chin

(OSV News) — A judge blocked Wyoming’s ban on abortion pills days before it was set to take effect July 1.

After hearing arguments from both sides, Teton County Judge Melissa Owens ruled that the ban won’t be implemented while a lawsuit proceeds, The Associated Press reported June 22.

The request to temporarily block the ban was brought forth by two nonprofits, including an abortion clinic and an organization that helps women pay for abortions, three women healthcare professionals, and a female law student who have sued to challenge the law.

The law, passed by the Wyoming Legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Mark Gordon in March, prohibited the prescription, dispensing, distribution, sale and use of any drug for the purpose of procuring an abortion.

Medication or chemical abortion is outlawed in other states by their near-total abortion bans. Wyoming became the first state in the U.S. to specifically ban the use or prescription of abortion-inducing pills on March 17. The U.S. Supreme Court said April 21 it would block a lower court’s restrictions on the abortion pill mifepristone, leaving it on the market while litigation over the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the drug proceeds.

In their request to stop the state’s abortion pill ban, the Wyoming plaintiffs argued that “virtually all abortions in Wyoming are medical abortion” and the ban “will cause irreparable harm to plaintiffs, their patients, their clients, and other Wyomites.”

The abortion pill now accounts for 54% of U.S. abortions in 2022, up from 39% in 2017, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization with historical ties to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. The FDA estimates 5.6 million women in the U.S. used mifepristone for abortion between September 2000 and June 2022.

The Wyoming plaintiffs have also sued to challenge an abortion ban enacted in Wyoming in March. The state’s Legislature passed a law that would restrict most abortions except for cases of rape or incest, risks to the mother’s life, or “a lethal fetal anomaly.”

Owens also blocked that abortion ban from enforcement back in March.

OSV News has reached out to the Diocese of Cheyenne for comment. The Catholic Church teaches that all human life is sacred and must be respected from conception to natural death. It opposes direct abortion as an act of violence that takes the life of the unborn child.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 24, 2023, decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned its previous rulings that stated that abortion access was a constitutional right. In doing so, it effectively returned the matter of restricting or permitting abortion to the states.

In the year following the Dobbs ruling, U.S. states have moved to restrict or expand access to abortion, prompting new legal battles over the procedure.