CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming’s first-in-the-nation ban on abortion pills will come before a state judge Thursday as the court considers whether the prohibition should take effect as planned July 1 or be put on hold pending the outcome of a lawsuit.
While other states have instituted de facto bans on the medication by broadly prohibiting abortion, Wyoming in March became the first U.S. state to specifically ban abortion pills. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in April that access to one of the two pills, mifepristone, may continue while litigants seeking to overturn the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of it.
Two nonprofit organizations in Wyoming, including an abortion clinic that opened in Casper in April; and four women, including two obstetricians, have sued to stop Wyoming from curbing access to the abortion pills. On Thursday, Teton County Judge Melissa Owens will hear arguments about what should happen as the lawsuit plays out.
Wellspring Health Access, Wyoming’s first full-service abortion clinic in years, offers pill abortions among its services. Previously only one other clinic in Wyoming — a women’s health center in Jackson, some 250 miles (400 kilometers) away — offered the option.
The same plaintiffs seeking to keep abortion pills legal in Wyoming are also suing to stop a new, near-total ban on abortion in the state. Both new laws were enacted after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last year. Since then, some 25 million women and teenagers of child-bearing age have been subjected to either stricter controls on ending their pregnancies or almost total bans on the procedure.
Owens combined the two Wyoming lawsuits into one case. Just a few days after the state’s general abortion ban took effect in March, the judge suspended it to keep abortion legal in Wyoming, for now.
Both of Wyoming’s new abortion laws allow exceptions to save a pregnant woman’s life and for cases of rape or incest that are reported to police.
In recent years, medication abortions using two kinds of pills, usually taken days apart, have become the preferred method for ending pregnancy in the U.S., in part because the process offers a less invasive alternative to surgical abortions. Until Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon signed the legislation outlawing medication abortions, no state had passed a law specifically prohibiting abortion pills, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
However, 13 states enacted blanket abortion bans that included medical abortions and 15 states already had limited access to the pills.
Wyoming officials have vowed to “vigorously defend” the state’s new laws, while opponents say they infringe on women’s basic rights.