Wyoming judge to rule on abortion laws, including the first-in-the-nation ban on abortion pills

A Wyoming judge will soon weigh in on the state’s abortion bans, including its first-in-the-nation ban on using medication to end pregnancy.

Teton County District Judge Melissa Owens in Jackson has shown sympathy for arguments that the bans violate women’s rights under the state constitution. Three times over the past year and a half, the judge has blocked the laws from taking effect while they were disputed in court.

One of the laws bans abortion except to protect a pregnant woman’s life or in cases involving rape and incest. The other made Wyoming the only state to explicitly ban abortion pills. Both sides have asked Owens to issue a ruling without holding a bench trial that is scheduled to begin April 15.

Any ultimate decision, however, is likely to be appealed to the Wyoming Supreme Court.

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The legal challenges were brought by four women, including two obstetricians, and two nonprofit organizations. They argued that the bans stood to harm their health, well-being and livelihoods, claims disputed by attorneys for the state.

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The women and nonprofits also argued the bans violated a 2012 state constitutional amendment saying Wyoming residents have a right to make their own health care decisions.

Owens has previously said this argument had merit.

Wyoming’s voters initially approved the 2012 amendment following passage of the federal Affordable Care Act, fearing government overreach.

Attorneys for the state, however, have argued that health care under the amendment does not include abortion.

Separately, the U.S. Supreme Court will take up a dispute over mifepristone, one of two drugs used in the most common method of ending pregnancy in the U.S.

Wyoming has just two clinics providing abortions: Wellspring Health Access in Casper and the Women’s Health and Family Care Clinic in Jackson.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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