Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R) signed a bill Friday to ban abortion pills from being used in the state, becoming the first in the country to specifically prohibit that form of abortion outside of a full ban on the procedure.
Blanket bans on all forms of abortion have already taken effect in 13 states, and 15 states have placed restrictions on access to abortion pills, but Wyoming is the first to sign off on separate legislation outlawing the pills, which have become the most common method for abortion.
Conservatives have pushed back against access to abortion pills in recent months following the initial prohibitions on abortion going into effect after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.
A U.S. district judge in Texas heard a legal challenge earlier this week to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of mifepristone, a drug that blocks hormones necessary for pregnancy. Mifepristone is one of two abortion pills available nationwide and has been used by more than 3 million women since the FDA approved it to induce abortion up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy in 2000.
Wyoming’s ban on abortion pills is set to take effect in July if legal action does not block it.
Gordon said in a release that he also “allowed” an updated abortion ban to go into effect that will prohibit the procedure in all cases except for instances of rape, incest, a lethal fetal anomaly that will prevent the fetus from surviving and to protect the life of the mother.
Anyone who performs an abortion in violation of the law could face up to five years in prison or a $20,000 fine or both.
The law seeks to replace a trigger abortion ban that went into effect after Roe was overturned but has been put on pause by the courts amid lawsuits arguing it violates the state constitution.
Gordon said he is concerned the new law will cause a new lawsuit to be filed and further delay a determination about the constitutionality of an abortion ban in Wyoming. He said the legislature has been continually making “minor tweaks” to the state’s abortion law each year, delaying a final decision from the courts.
He said the legislature should place a constitutional amendment referendum on the ballot for the people of the state to decide if they want a ban in the state constitution.
“If the Legislature wants to expressly address how the Wyoming Constitution treats abortion and defines healthcare, then those issues should be vetted through the amendment process laid out in Article 20 of the Wyoming Constitution and voted on directly by the people,” Gordon said.
Antonio Serrano, the advocacy director for the Wyoming American Civil Liberties Union, slammed Gordon’s decision to sign the abortion pill ban.
“A person’s health, not politics, should guide important medical decisions — including the decision to have an abortion,” Serrano said in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.