Abortion reporting bill passes Senate, awaits Gov. Gordon’s signature

Wyoming State Senators who supported an anti-abortion bill Monday couldn’t counter arguments that it’s both unnecessarily punitive and flat-out unnecessary.

But they voted for it anyway.

House Bill 103 requires doctors who perform abortions to report detailed information about the procedures and the women who receive them. Failure to do so would automatically trigger an investigation by the Wyoming Board of Medicine, which could impose a maximum $25,000 fine and forfeiture of an abortion provider’s medical license.

The bill is meant to intimidate both women and physicians.

The Senate passed the measure by a vote of 20 – 9. The House previously approved the bill, 38 – 21.

HB-103 will now head for Gov. Mark Gordon’s desk for his signature.

Pointless data

Critics of the bill blasted it Monday on the Senate floor. They wondered aloud what the point of it was.

“Why does the state of Wyoming need to know, at the possible risk of punishing a doctor if they don’t provide the information, exactly when someone receives an abortion?” asked Sen. Chris Rothfuss (D-Laramie). “It’s a medical [procedure] between the doctor and the patient.

“Everyone likes data,” he added. “But at some point you have to wonder why the state needs the data. Is this any of our business?”

“At some point you have to wonder why the state needs the data. Is this any of our business?”

Sen. Wendy Schuler (R-Evanston) said the Wyoming Medical Board can already investigate written complaints for non-reporting. If there is a real problem, she said, why isn’t anyone filing complaints?

“If we’re going to pass a bill it should be a bill that’s needed,” Schuler said.

Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander) agreed. “This bill, I believe, is a little bit of extra fancy window-dressing to bring the hammer down, when people are not making the complaints and not making the record requests that exist in law now,” he said.

Driving women away

Case said that the bill could discourage women from seeking physician-assisted abortions in Wyoming. Instead, he said, they might try riskier alternatives, like at-home abortion pills purchased online.

“I want women who need an abortion to be under the care of a Wyoming physician. I don’t want to drive them out of state.”

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea or not. I want women who need an abortion to be under the care of a Wyoming physician,” Case said. “It’s legal and they [can obtain] the follow-up care that’s needed.

“I don’t want to drive them out of state,” he continued. “I don’t want to drive them to other methods of obtaining abortion which could endanger their lives and public safety.”

Another opponent of the bill, Sen. Michael Von Flatern (R-Gillette), noted that abortion is the only procedure the state requires to be reported that is not related to a contagious disease.

Halfhearted counter-argument

Sen. Charles Scott (R-Casper) offered up some counter arguments, but they weren’t really necessary.

Scott claimed that HB-130 strengthens privacy protections. But he did not cite any examples. “I think we need to tone down the rhetoric and look at what the bill actually does,” he said.

Scott said the bill would put the enforcement of complying with reporting requirements squarely in the hands of the Board of Medicine. But it already is—only, first, someone must file a complaint.

To date, no one has in Wyoming.

Anti-choice momentum

Rep. Scott Clem

HB-130 is sponsored by Scott Clem (R-Gillettee), an outspoken abortion opponent. Clem co-sponsored two other anti-abortion bills this session: the “Unborn Victims of Violence Act,” which would have granted legal rights to zygotes and clumps of fetal tissue, and a bill that would have imposed up to $1,000 fines and jail time for doctors who fail to offer women seeking abortions the chance to view an ultrasound.

Clem also co-sponsored the two anti-abortion bills that passed in 2017. Those were the first anti-abortion bills to pass in Wyoming in nearly 30 years.

This year, the Legislature defeated the “Unborn Victims of Violence Act” and the ultrasound bill, along with another that would have required a 48-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions.

The passage of HB-103, however, suggests that anti-choice lawmakers will continue bring bills that pose serious threats to Wyoming women’s reproductive rights.

Under the proposed new law, Wyoming doctors who fail to report detailed information about abortions and the women who receive them could face $25,000 fines and the loss of their medical licenses.