Wyo. lawmakers propose first batch of post-Roe abortion laws

Members of the Wyoming Legislature’s far-right Freedom Caucus are following up last year’s “trigger ban” on abortions with more proposed laws to prohibit reproductive rights in our state.

Two bills aim at this goal—one would outlaw pharmaceutical abortions, and another tries to skirt Wyoming’s constitutional right to healthcare freedom by saying that abortion isn’t healthcare.

On the flipside, lawmakers will also consider a pro-choice bill that would overturn the state’s “trigger ban” and return Wyoming to its status quo prior to the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

Abortion remains legal in Wyoming today while a court challenge to the 2022 “trigger ban” moves through the legal system. 

When a final ruling is made by the Wyoming Supreme Court, these three bills could have profound impacts on reproductive rights in our state.

The bill that would prohibit chemical abortions, Senate File 109, is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Labor and Health Committee at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 25. 

The other two bills have been received for introduction and await committee assignments.

A bill against a lawsuit

House Bill 152–Life Is a Human Right Act is a strange and elaborate bill apparently written by pro-life attorneys. It is clearly meant to function as a backup plan—a “Plan B,” if you will—to last year’s trigger ban in the event that the Wyoming Supreme Court strikes that law down. 

HB-152 articulates that abortion is not healthcare. This is a response to the lawsuit challenging the “trigger ban,” which argues among other things that the clause in the Wyoming Constitution protecting healthcare freedom extends to reproductive healthcare.  

The bill also claims that life begins at conception, which would be a profound change for state law. Wyoming statute has historically referred to a fetus as a “fetus.” Only upon birth does a fetus gain the rights of personhood.

Women who receive abortions would not be subject to criminal penalties, but they could be sued by just about anyone.

Sponsored by Freedom Caucus member Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams (R-Cody), the bill would provide for criminal charges against physicians who perform abortions—a fine up to $20,000 and/or five years in prison.

Women who receive abortions would not be subject to criminal penalties, but they would become open to civil penalties—essentially, they could be sued by just about anyone. This portion of HB-152 is modeled after Texas’ law that “deputized” its citizens to uphold a 2021 abortion ban.

In addition, HB-152 would remove exemptions for rape and incest that were included in the “trigger ban.” 

An abortion could be performed if the life of the mother were in danger, but the doctor would need to try everything else first. 

No abortion pills

Senate File 109-Prohibiting chemical abortions is sponsored by Freedom Caucus member Sen. Tim Salazar (R-Riverton). It would ban the sale or distribution of pills like mifepristone and misoprostol, which are approved by the FDA to end unwanted pregnancies.

Sen. Tim Salazar

Violating SF-109 would be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $9,000, and/or six months’ imprisonment. A pregnant woman who has had a chemical abortion performed or attempted would not be subject to a criminal penalty.

Exceptions would be for saving the life of the mother or preventing her severe physical injury, though not for psychological or emotional conditions. Victims of incest and sexual assault would also be exempt.

Medication abortion has been available in the U.S. since 2000. By 2021, the method accounted for over half of abortions performed in the nation. According to the World Health Organization, mifepristone, misoprostol, and their generic equivalents are effective until the 12th week of pregnancy.

Return to pre-Dobbs

HB117-Abortion amendments, sponsored by House Minority Leader Mike Yin (D-Jackson), would repeal the 2022 “trigger ban” and return Wyoming abortion law to its status quo prior to the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade

HB-177 would protect the right to an abortion regardless of the outcome of the court case challenging the “trigger ban.” It specifies—as the law was before 2022—that abortions will not be performed after a fetus has reached viability, except in cases of rape, incest, or threat to the pregnant woman’s health. 

Recent laws passed and proposed by our increasingly right-wing legislature do not reflect popular attitudes about abortion.

Wyoming’s previous laws governing abortion reflected a middle ground of sorts, which were appropriate given the state population’s stance on reproductive rights.

According to a 2022 University of Wyoming poll, 36 percent of state residents view abortion purely as a matter of personal choice. Another 55 percent agree it should be legal with varying restrictions. Only seven percent of residents favor a full ban without exceptions.

Recent laws passed and proposed by our increasingly right-wing legislature do not reflect these popular attitudes. Instead, they are the result of a political body overtaken by radicals at the expense of residents’ rights.