Judge temporarily blocks Wyoming abortion ban

Teton County District Judge Melissa Owens heard arguments Wednesday seeking a temporary restraining order on Wyoming’s abortion law.
Published: Jul. 27, 2022 at 12:50 PM CDT
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - The same day Wyoming’s abortion ban was expected to take effect, Teton County District Judge Melissa Owens granted a temporary restraining order blocking the ban immediately.

The lawsuit, filed by Wellspring Health Access, Chelsea’s Fund, and others, claims the new law violates the state constitution. With a temporary restraining order, the plaintiffs say they aim to preserve the status quo until the merits of action have been determined.

The State of Wyoming, Governor Mark Gordon, Attorney General Bridget Hill, Teton County Sheriff Matthew Carr, and Jackson Police Chief Michelle Weber are all named in the lawsuit.

Wyoming’s new abortion law would outlaw abortions except in cases of rape or incest or to protect the mother’s life or health, not including psychological conditions.

Governor Mark Gordon (R-Wyo.) signed the bill into law in March. Last week, he certified the abortion ban to the Secretary of State. The ban was expected to go into effect five days following the certification.

In filing papers, the plaintiffs wrote pregnancy is physically, emotionally, and financially demanding. They claimed “Wyoming’s Criminal Abortion Ban” will cause women to “lose their rights to decide whether and when to become parents, their entitlement to be free from discriminatory state laws that perpetuate stereotypes about women and their proper societal role, the right to access appropriate health care and make private health care decisions; and their right to bodily autonomy and liberty.”

Attorney John Robinson with Wellspring Health Access, an abortion care clinic in Casper, and Chelsea’s Fund, a Wyoming abortion fund, argued Wyoming has traditionally left decisions about healthcare to patients, their loved ones, doctors, and spiritual advisors. During the hearing, he argued that, traditionally, Wyoming is not in the habit of imposing morals.

Robinson noted the words “abortion” and “family” do not appear in the state constitution.

For the defendants, attorneys argued the plaintiffs have failed to prove that the implicit right to an abortion exists in the state of Wyoming.

Attorney for the State of Wyoming Jay Jerde noted in his response that there is a legal standard for irreparable injury. He said the plaintiffs have a responsibility to show that the alleged harms of the abortion ban rise to that legal definition. He claimed the plaintiffs have not met that burden of proof to support their request for a temporary restraining order on the ban.

Jerde added the ban is a lawful exercise of legislative power and lawmakers have the legal authority to enact any laws not prohibited by the Wyoming constitution or the United States constitution.

After a 15-minute recess, Teton County District Judge Melissa Owens granted the temporary injunction, finding the plaintiffs had compelling arguments in asking the court to preserve the status quo that has been a part of Wyoming since 1977.

The temporary restraining order is effective immediately.

A hearing on the case is scheduled for the beginning of August.

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