CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) – Wyoming has pushed to the forefront of state efforts to ban the most common type of abortion by enacting the nation’s first explicit ban on abortion pills.
Medication abortions, which usually involve taking two prescription drugs spaced apart at home or in a clinic, became the preferred way to terminate a pregnancy in the US even before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — and now account for more than half of all abortions according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
More than a dozen states now effectively ban the abortion pill by banning all forms of abortion, a move after the US Supreme Court overturned its landmark Roe v. Wade ruling last year.
Fifteen states restrict access to the pill. Of those, six — Arizona, Indiana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota and South Carolina — require a doctor to administer them in person. Arizona also prohibits mail order abortion pills.
But before the bill signed Friday by Republican Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, no state had specifically banned the abortion pill. The law was passed along with a new abortion ban that seeks to circumvent problems with an earlier state ban that was upheld in court.
With two new abortion laws, the Wyoming Legislature is “kind of trying to cover all its bases” for banning abortion, said Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute.
Gordon allowed the new broad abortion ban to go into effect on Sunday without his signature. It remains to be seen whether the abortion pill ban he signed will go into effect on July 1 as planned. That could be delayed in the courts if the state’s abortion provider sues over it. Meanwhile, a federal judge in Texas is considering a case with implications for access to the abortion pill nationwide
Here’s a look at where abortion stands in Wyoming and elsewhere:
IS ABORTION NOW ILLEGAL IN WYOMING?
Yes. As of Sunday, abortions in all forms are illegal.
The only state clinic that provided abortions until the ban was in the tourist mountain town of Jackson. Another clinic in Casper was set to open last year before an arson delayed plans. The clinic, Wellspring Health Access, had hoped to open next month, but those plans are now uncertain.
Even before the ban, many women in Wyoming drove to Colorado and elsewhere for abortions because it was more convenient. There is no ban on Wyoming women continuing to travel out of state to seek abortions.
WHY DID WYOMING TAKE SUCH AGGRESSIVE ACTION?
Wyoming has long been a deeply conservative state, but one that has often shied away from addressing social issues—live and let live is the credo of rural life in the West.
That is changing. With a state legislature more dominated by Republicans than at any time in a century, leaders are able to delve into culture war issues without any opposition.
Last year, Gordon signed an abortion ban that took effect a month after the Supreme Court overturned Roe. Within hours, Teton County Circuit Judge Melissa Owens suspended the ban, ruling that the lawsuit’s claim that it would harm pregnant women and their doctors could be upheld.
Two nonprofit organizations and four women, including two midwives, who sued also argued that the ban violated a 2012 state constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to make one’s own health care decisions.
State attorneys said that wasn’t the intent — the amendment was passed in response to the Affordable Care Act, which seeks to expand health care coverage nationwide.
This year, Wyoming lawmakers completed a lawsuit with a new, blanket ban on abortion, arguing that abortion is not health care and therefore not protected by the state constitution.
WHAT ARE LEGISLATORS DOING IN OTHER COUNTRIES?
Most Republican-controlled states have passed abortion bans or tighter restrictions in anticipation that Roe v. Wade will eventually be overturned.
And last year, several Democratic-controlled states passed abortion access protections.
But that didn’t end the legislative battles.
This month, Utah passed a law banning abortion clinics, becoming the first state to take such action. It came as the state’s ban on abortion at all stages of pregnancy was held up by a legal challenge.
In Florida, lawmakers are trying to figure out what bans to enact. Florida previously enacted a ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy, which is much looser than what other GOP-controlled states have done; a new measure to ban them is advancing through the legislature after six weeks. Gov. Ron DeSantis, a possible 2024 presidential candidate, is expected to sign it if it comes to him.
In South Carolina, also dominated by the GOP, lawmakers are debating what kind of ban to try next after the state’s highest court struck down a six-week abortion ban.
In Minnesota, a state where last year’s election gave Democrats full control of the government, the governor signed into law this year additional protections for access to abortion.
Geoff Mulvihill in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, contributed to this report.