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A judge in Wyoming temporarily blocked the state’s recently enacted abortion ban Wednesday, allowing the procedure to remain legal as the court hears challenges brought against the law.
Teton County District Court Judge Melissa Owens granted a restraining order against the law, which bans nearly all abortions, except in the case of rape, incest or if a pregnant person’s life is in danger.
Under Wyoming’s Life is a Human Right Act, which went into effect on Sunday, abortion providers would be charged with a felony that carries up to a five year prison sentence and a $20,000 fine.
The court will now hear a lawsuit challenging the abortion ban and another law—that will go into effect on July 1—banning the prescription, distribution and sale of abortion pills.
The plaintiffs—two women and four healthcare providers—argue that the abortion ban violates Wyoming’s constitution, which says adults have the right to make their own health care decisions.
The new law, however, states, “abortion as defined in this act is not health care.”
“The state can not legislate away a constitutional right. It’s not clear whether abortion is health care. The court has to then decide that,” Owens said in her ruling on Wednesday.
Wyoming’s abortion ban went into effect on Sunday, and last week the state’s Governor Mark Gordon (R) approved the nation’s first law banning abortion pills. At the time, even Gordon expressed concern that “this new law will only result in a new lawsuit, which will delay any resolution to the constitutionality of the abortion ban in Wyoming.” Owens suspended a similar statewide abortion ban last year after Roe was overturned. Sweeping abortion bans in several other states have also faced court challenges, and in some states like South Carolina and North Dakota, they have either been struck down or put on hold.
Wyoming Judge Temporarily Blocks the State’s New Abortion Ban (New York Times)
Judge halts Wyoming abortion ban days after it took effect (Associated Press)