Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: Abortion is nothing like buying clothes.

Maybe someone should tell that to Rep. Richard Tass (R-Sheridan), the sponsor of a bill requiring a 48-hour waiting period in Wyoming before having an abortion.

Tass told the House Judiciary Committee last week that recently he was buying a sports jacket and was worried about how it would “fit and feel.” The freshman legislator said he was assured by the clerk that if he didn’t like the jacket he could bring it back after a few days.

“Buyer’s remorse,” Tass said. “There’s no such thing with abortion. It’s final. There’s no returning it, there’s no taking it back. … This bill only asks that a woman be given the gift of just two days to consider this final act.”

I doubt he spent anywhere near the amount of time thinking about his purchase than a woman who contemplates an abortion. Nor did he have to drive across Wyoming to Jackson to see the only two medical providers who perform abortions in the state, pay for transportation and lodging and perhaps child care.

The waiting period would begin immediately after the doctor informs the woman “of the opportunity to view an active ultrasound of the unborn child and hear the heartbeat of the unborn child if the heartbeat is audible,” as prescribed by another anti-abortion law adopted in the 2017 general session.

Yet the committee voted 6-3 in favor of House Bill 140 – Abortion-48 hour waiting period. This despite several women at the hearing identifying for the committee the bill’s one and only intention: bully women who are facing one of the most difficult decisions of their lives into doing what the religious right wants them to do.

Perhaps worse than his demeaning comparison of clothes shopping to health care, Rep. Tass assumes a patriarchal right to bless women with the “gift” of his wisdom.

Geri Maria Johnson of Cheyenne was outraged by what she heard and let the committee know it.

“I am angry and insulted by this whole [legislative] procedure,” she said after listening for more than 40 minutes.

“We do not want the government’s interference in any way… I am capable of making my life decisions myself,” she declared.

Dr. Larry Meuli, a former state health officer and one of several men who testified against the bill, succinctly summed up what the waiting period supporters believe: “We will get our beliefs in statute, and if you don’t believe what we do, we can persecute you, we can prosecute you, because what you believe is no longer lawful.”

No medical procedure performed on men requires a two-day wait after signing an “informed consent” form.

Rep. Charles Pelkey (D-Laramie), who voted against the bill, asked Tass if there was any medical justification for the measure.

“There’s so many women who have gone through this who years later are still traumatized by this procedure,” Tass replied.

But Meuli said studies have shown there is no difference between the serious psychological problems of women who have had abortions and those who have chosen to have a child. Both have postpartum depression, he said, but the instances are slightly greater in the latter instance.

Former state social worker Kathleen Peterson of Cheyenne said Tass’ bill hurts women without the financial resources to spend two days waiting for an abortion in Jackson.

“I feel like there’s this thought that women find themselves in this situation and they just suddenly wake up and say, “Oh, I think today I’ll have an abortion,’” Peterson said.

Terminating a pregnancy isn’t the only decision that may haunt women, she noted. Choosing adoption does, too, and if a woman is pressured into having a child she does not want, it can result in the child’s mistreatment.

“All these decisions weigh heavy,” Peterson said. “They came to these decisions way before 48 hours.”

House Bill 140 supporters apparently haven’t considered — or simply don’t care about — the harm a lengthy waiting period would cause women. Those who don’t have sick leave would have to take time off from work. Seems simple, but not if you don’t have much money. And what about victims of domestic violence who have to make up excuses to their abuser for taking a long trip out of town?

In 2016 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a burden on access to abortion — such as the high costs, lengthy delays and extra steps required of the Texas law in question — must be justified by a “proportional benefit.” I think the courts will be hard-pressed to find such a benefit exists in HB140.

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If the bill becomes law, it will likely result in a lawsuit against the state. It should not be difficult for an attorney in Wyoming to prove that the long distances women must travel to have an abortion here and the related costs are an undue burden.

Lawmakers who want to restrict abortions in Wyoming have another vehicle this session, House Bill 103 – Reporting of abortions. Sponsored by Rep. Scott Clem (R-Gillette), the measure would make criminals out of physicians if they fail to meet state reporting requirements for any abortions.

A physician would be subject to a $1,000 fine for being a month late, and an additional $1,000 for every additional month that a report is not made. Nevermind that the requested information is all readily available from a variety of resources, including the Guttmacher Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Intentional falsification” of abortion records would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison, a fine of $1,000, or both.

Linda Burt, a lobbyist for NARAL Pro-Choice Wyoming, says both bills are anti-women: “They’re about denying women their reproductive rights and punishing physicians.”

Current state law requires that physicians report the age of women who have surgical abortions performed. Clem’s bill would add race, ethnicity and the marital status of the pregnant women.

Why stop there? Doesn’t Rep. Clem also need to know what religion they belong to and their political party affiliation?

On second thought, please forget I posed that question. I don’t want to give lawmakers any more ideas about how they can infringe on a woman’s privacy and personal medical decisions than these bills already do.

But wait, there’s more!

Another bill with the potential to limit reproductive rights, Senate File 128 – Unborn Victims of Violence, sponsored by Sen. Lynn Hutchings (R-Cheyenne), would not cover abortion. But it is an extreme “personhood” measure that creates several new felonies for the intentional or accidental injury or homicide of an “unborn child.”

By inserting the term “unborn child” into state statute in place of “fetus” the bill seems to exist primarily to establish the religious concept of life at conception in Wyoming law. It defines conception as “the fecundation of the ovum by the spermatozoa.”

A pregnant woman’s conception may not even be known to her or determined by a physician before an intentional or accidental death. Therefore the pregnancy could be found during an autopsy and used by prosecutors solely to enhance charges against a suspect.

Doctors and other medical care providers and the mother are exempted from the provisions of the bill.

Senate File 128 is unnecessary. There are already plenty of penalties on the books for injuring or killing a pregnant woman. The new felonies created if the bill becomes law include first-degree murder of an unborn child. The penalty would be life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Manslaughter of an unborn child – which would not necessitate the death of the pregnant woman – would carry a sentence of up to 20 years.

Senate File 128 will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday upon the chamber’s noon recess.

If it becomes law, SF128’s definition of human life starting at conception could be the tip of the legal spear used as the catalyst for a new wave of Wyoming anti-abortion legislation and ultimately setting the stage for a Supreme Court challenge of Roe v. Wade. That’s the real reason behind the bill: granting constitutional rights to all fertilized eggs, zygotes, embryos and fetuses.

It’s an extreme agenda that’s better fit for a third-world theocracy than the Wyoming Legislature.

Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and...

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  1. What would people think of these bills if they were broadly applied in the field of medicine? What if every non-emergency procedure required a 48-hour waiting period? What if every medical procedure required special reporting with fines and prison time awaiting every medical professional who was tardy or delinquent in such reports? If these measures seem ludicrous when applied across the medical spectrum, it becomes obvious that they have nothing to do with patient well-being and everything to do with control.

  2. This is my letter in response to the waiting period bill. I am totally opposed to the other two bills on abortion and their insertion of government into private decisions. Women are adults. Men are necessary to pregnancy. Stop punishing women and children for the men who don’t use contraception. My letter:

    It is astonishing to me that anyone would compare pregnancy, giving birth, and devoting 20 years of your life to the care and nurture of another human being, to buying a car or a jacket. Couldn’t we compare to buying a house or a John Deere where there is at least a long term financial commitment?

    Abortion bills are a way of being judgmental about a decision without bothering to consider consequences. Decision factors could be illness, illness of a family member, mental illness, homelessness, food insecurity, lack of medical insurance, commitment to career, abusive partner, failing marriage, already having children, being alone, not wanting children, drug addiction, or just being too exhausted to take more on. The empathy deficit involved in shrugging off those concerns as if they don’t matter is astounding.

    Some members seem unaware that a person cannot walk into a store and buy an abortion like you can a car or a coat. It requires at least two doctor visits, more likely three, so the waiting period is built in. Women are actual adult people who can vote, drive, work jobs, and serve in the military. A woman has some idea of what it takes to raise a child and can assess whether she has what it takes. If she can’t care for a child, it would be irresponsible to bring one into the world.

    We know unintended pregnancies can be reduced by providing easy access to contraception and education about reproduction, and I suggest trying that instead of punitive measures. Please vote to keep government out of private, intimate matters and out of the practice of medicine. It is hard enough to recruit doctors without this nonsense.

  3. I would like to examine an array of ASSUMPTIONS in this article.

    //Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: Abortion is nothing like buying clothes.
    Maybe someone should tell that to Rep. Richard Tass (R-Sheridan), the sponsor of a bill requiring a 48-hour waiting period in Wyoming before having an abortion.//

    Nothing like? That’s simply not true. Pondering choices exists in both. To be sure, a closer analogy could have been used, but pondering one’s actions exists in both.

    //I doubt he spent anywhere near the amount of time thinking about his purchase than a woman who contemplates an abortion.//

    I should hope so! But this actually hurts the writer’s cause, for one could always go back and buy a piece of clothing, but one can never reassemble a human being; therefore, a waiting period is a good buffer.

    //No medical procedure performed on men requires a two-day wait after signing an “informed consent” form.//

    Here, the statement is not false, but the inference he attempts to establish is false, because it’s irrelevant. Even in our current denial of natural law, only women can be impregnated, carry, and birth a child. Inconsistency here does NOT exist.

    Additionally, when men can and do contribute to preganacy, i.e., impregnate a woman, there are requirements, e.g., financial; indeed, if under public care, e.g., Medicaid, the state, if paternity is established, WILL REQUIRE of him financial support.

    //“I feel like there’s this thought that women find themselves in this situation and they just suddenly wake up and say, “Oh, I think today I’ll have an abortion,’” Peterson said.//

    If this thought exists, it exits in Peterson’s own head. No sane person thinks this. Indeed, it is such a grave decision, a small waiting period is being put forth.

    Additionally, here’s the real shocker – does the writer really want to compare traveling somewhere to this hotly debated issue of human life, when in fact he had already stated that in contemplating abortion a woman is: “facing one of the most difficult decisions of their lives?” Now there, I would argue, is the inconsistency and shock-value.

    //…bully women who are facing one of the most difficult decisions of their lives…//

    Bully women? Hardly. The writer is correct in one thing. The law is forceful and has repercussions, but it’s no more bullying to protect the unborn, than the law affords other moral legislation. In fact, it’s not bullying at all – it’s what the law IS and DOES, i.e., force compliance. To think otherwise, is to reveal a misunderstanding. Imposition is NOT bullying; but it does come with forceful compliance.

    There’s more, but neither time nor space allow. Let me summarize what I and other PRO LIFE folk believe concerning this issue.
    1) affirm the worth, dignity, and value of every human life
    2) affirm the hardness and pain of life, e.g., financial and life-situational difficulties of nonintentional pregnancies
    3) affirm a full spectrum of assistance for those in need, e.g., social, financial, emotional.
    4) where issues are not absolutely clear, or where values conflict (a woman’s own body vs. the undeniable full potential of intact chromosomal human life within a woman’s body) a JUST society protects the vulnerable and weak. Life deserves the tip of the scale, especially when in every conceivable way, left to its own, – without interference – the pregnancy will yield a visible human being.

  4. More disguised religious tyranny.

    Women will continue to get abortions, as they have for millennia. They should be able to get them in a safe, clinical environment. Individuals who want to impose their beliefs on others would do well to tend to their own affairs and butt out.

    What a woman does regarding abortion is HER business, and that of no one else. Legislation like this simply targets those who are the least wealthy. The rich folks will send their daughters out of state or out of country to get abortions, and keep the whole thing under wraps, as they have done for a long, long time, no matter how they bellow their “morals” for all to hear.

  5. Mr. Drake,
    I think your position on this is extreme as is the position of NARAL.
    We are talking about a life. A unique and special life that is created at the moment of conception. Ultra sounds now show this special little life as much more than a clump of cells.
    Of course abortion is a very traumatic and troubling decision for any woman to make, as is adoption.
    While you point out that some women feel bullied by having to stop and consider the impact of a decision they will be unable to change, what you fail to address is that in many instances the woman is being bullied into having the abortion. Many women are grateful that they stopped to reconsider such a life changing decision and are thankful they did not abort their child.
    There are two sides to this issue. Women determined to end the life in their womb will do so even if they must stop to reconsider. Women who are being pressured into aborting or who are confused or unsure may find the delay beneficial.
    Human life is sacred and special, as is all life.
    If we err, let’s err on the side of that human life.

    1. If we err, let’s make it on the side of holding men accountable for unintended pregnancies, rather than women and children. How about this: Any man who impregnates a woman without specific written agreement to parenthood by the women, is guilty of felony impregnation, subject to fines large enough to support a child for 18 years, and jail time to discourage repeat offense. I am sick to death of blaming women for pregnancies, belittling them for their bad luck, and then expecting them to magically produce 18 years of care for another human being.

  6. Thank you for this. Your arguments against these bills bring reason and an understanding of women’s lives into the mix. If only the necessary people would listen.