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Wyoming Passes Bill Banning Sale of Abortion Pill

Wyoming is the first state in the country to specifically pass legislation to outlaw the FDA-approved abortion pill.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon dines with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and local officials in Wright, Wyoming, on July 30, 2019.

On March 17, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R) signed a bill into law that will make it illegal to prescribe, sell or use “any drug for the purpose of procuring or performing an abortion.” The abortion pills, misoprostol and mifepristone, have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

While more than a dozen states have effectively banned abortion pills with their prohibitions on all forms of abortion and 15 states currently restrict access to abortion pills, Wyoming is now the first in the country to specifically ban abortion pills. People who violate the law, which goes into effect on July 1, will be charged with a misdemeanor and punished with up to six months of incarceration and a fine of $9,000.

“These abortion bans should alarm everybody in every corner of our country,” NARAL Pro-Choice America President Mini Timmaraju said in a statement in response to the abortion pill ban. “There’s no stone that anti-choice extremists will leave unturned as they seek to do everything they can to ensure that abortion is banned across the nation. This first-of-its-kind ban on medication abortion, as well as the total ban, are just the latest proof.”

Gov. Mark Gordon also allowed HB0152, dubbed the “Life is a Human Right Act,” to go into effect without his signature, immediately banning all abortions in the state with exceptions for rape, incest or dire risks to the pregnant patient’s life. People who violate this law will be charged with a felony, fined up to $20,000 dollars, and face a prison sentence of five years.

Gordon claimed he did not sign the bill into law because he believed it would result in a new lawsuit, which would “delay any resolution to the constitutionality of the abortion ban in Wyoming.”

HB0152 is a more-precisely written redraft of Wyoming’s 2022 “trigger ban,” which was blocked by Judge Melissa Owens of the District Court of Teton County after the law went into effect following the overturn of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court in June. The state’s trigger ban is still snaking its way through the court system and The Wyoming Truth reports that the new law was a legislative effort to sidestep this court challenge, with the new bill rendering the trigger abortion ban invalid.

On Friday, after HB0152 became law, a lawsuit challenging the legislation was filed in Teton County District Court to halt the abortion ban from going into effect. Filed by the same plaintiffs as last summer’s challenge to the trigger ban, the parties are requesting an emergency hearing and a temporary restraining order to pause the abortion ban in the state.

The state has one lone clinic that provides abortion care, forcing the majority of Wyomingites to travel to more abortion-friendly states like Colorado for abortion access. As a result of these bans, abortion providers in Wyoming were forced to cancel scheduled appointments.

In Texas, Trump-appointed Judge Kacsmaryk is considering a lawsuit that could eliminate access to abortion pills nationwide. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, a coalition of anti-abortion groups, is pushing to have mifepristone deemed illegal for use, arguing that the medication wasn’t properly vetted by the FDA.

The FDA has filed an amicus brief opposing a proposed preliminary injunction that would withdraw or suspend the FDA’s approval of the abortion medications.

Judge Kacsmaryk has been reported as appearing sympathetic to the anti-abortion arguments and abortion advocates fear that he may halt nationwide sales of the needed abortion pills within the next few weeks.

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