Teton County Judge Prevents Implementation of Wyoming’s Abortion Ban
On Wednesday, Teton County District Court Judge Melissa Owens issued a ruling granting a motion for a preliminary injunction, blocking the implementation of Wyoming's abortion ban for the second time.
The case, Danielle Johnson et al. vs. State of Wyoming et al, follows a previous hearing where Owens blocked the implementation of Wyoming's abortion ban on the day it was set to take effect, July 27, and scheduled another hearing for Aug. 9.
The plaintiffs, in this case, include Danielle Johnson, a resident of Teton County who was 22 weeks pregnant when the case was filed, Kathleen Dow, a conservative Jew whose religion requires abortion access, Dr. Giovannina Anthony and Dr. Rene Hinkle, two Obstetrics and Gynecology specialist, Chelsea's Fund, an abortion fund, and Wellspring Health Access, a proposed clinic in Casper.
Owens gave several reasonings in her motion for why HB 92, the abortion trigger ban, shouldn't be implemented, including the law causing irreparable harm and it being in the public interest.
For irreparable harm, Ownes said that if Johnson were to suffer any complications during her pregnancy, the law as written does not allow for an appropriate remedy.
Owens said that due to the vagueness of the law, physicians trying to provide the best care to patients would run afoul and risk losing their license, facing felony prosecution, or imprisonment.
Women’s Health and Family Care, the only clinic that currently performs abortions in Wyoming, was not able to provide comment on the case, as one of their doctors is involved in the case, and would not provide any information on the number of abortions it has provided since July 27.
At the hearing on Tuesday, the lawyers for the plaintiff made their arguments on the grounds that Wyoming's constitution allows people to make their own healthcare decisions, that the abortion ban discriminates based on gender, that the law is vague, and would create irreparable harm to women in Wyoming.
Regarding the Wyoming constitution, Article 1, Section 38, states "Each competent adult shall have the right to make his or her own health care decisions. the Parent, guardian or legal representative of any other natural person shall have the right to make health care decisions for that person."
Owens said in the ruling that based on that language, the Wyoming constitution does provide its citizens with the right to make their own health care decisions, including abortion up to the point of viability without restrictions.
Julie Burkhart, the founder of Wellspring Health Access, released a statement following the ruling, stating:
"Today’s ruling is an important victory for abortion access in Wyoming and in support of Wyomingites’ constitutionally protected right to make decisions about their own health care, which includes abortion care. While we are heartened by today’s outcome, we know the fight to keep abortion legal in Wyoming is far from over," Burkhart said. "We remain committed to doing everything we can to both protect the legal right to abortion in Wyoming and ensure that patients can actually receive the reproductive health care they need. We are still working toward opening our clinic in Casper in the coming months, which will be a major step forward for comprehensive reproductive health care access in the state. We are grateful for the support we are receiving from communities across Wyoming as we continue this important work."
Wyoming's Attorney General Bridget Hill would not provide any comment on pending litigation.