As part of 2019 suffrage anniversary celebrations, a 19-mile segment of Highway 28 near South Pass City was renamed “Wyoming Women’s Suffrage Pathway.” (Courtesy Wyoming Office of Tourism)

I moved to Wyoming a few years ago for its outdoor recreation, but I also liked the state’s history of championing equal rights for women. As early as 1869, it codified women’s voting rights, 50 years before the 19th Amendment did the same thing. Western women in the 19th century quickly proved their mettle, helping to build communities in rugged and isolated landscapes. 

Opinion

But now, sadly, Wyoming has agreed to subjugate women. In March, Wyoming’s governor signed a “trigger bill” that would ban abortions in the state after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which it did June 24. The law goes into effect five days after the governor certifies the ruling to the secretary of state.

Around the West, other states including Idaho, Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota and Oklahoma also passed anticipatory bills restricting women’s reproductive health soon after the Supreme Court acted. Texas had a tough law that banned virtually all abortions since 2021, although its new law, set to take effect in the next month, introduces even harsher measures — a near-total ban, even after incest and rape. 

Fortunately, some Western states recognize the needs of women, and women seeking abortions who are blocked at home are already traveling to them. Colorado passed an act in March giving anyone pregnant the “fundamental right to continue the pregnancy … or to have an abortion.” 

Three coastal states, California, Washington and Oregon, said they would be havens for women seeking abortions. In addition, Oregon allotted $15 million to help cover abortion costs even for non-residents. 

Corporations are also becoming allies. Apple, Citi and Yelp adjusted their corporate policies in Texas to include travel for abortions as part of health insurance packages. Lyft and Uber have promised to pay legal fees if their drivers are charged with the crime of “assisting” abortion patients. 

Ironically, when COVID-19 was rampant, I often heard Westerners express a common sentiment about getting vaccinated, or not: “It’s my body and my choice.” I almost laughed, as that’s the cry of women who want the choice of becoming a mother, or not.

Men retain control over their bodies, but in too many parts of this country, women no longer can.

Before the Supreme Court decision was announced, I began talking to people about their views on access to abortion, and as you would expect, reactions were mixed, though no one I spoke to for this opinion agreed to be quoted by name due to privacy concerns. At a block party, a 22-year-old Jackson man, who self-identified as Hispanic, said he thought of abortion as “one of the worst sins.” Then he surprised me by adding, “But a woman should be able to make that decision.”

At a pizza joint, a fourth-generation Jackson resident I’ve gotten to know said, “I don’t think the government should have a say about your individual body … The government should be building roads. We don’t believe in big government.”

An Indigenous man in his late 20s said, “Humans should be able to make choices for their own human bodies. Otherwise, we’re going back to slavery.”

Still, I get the sense that many well-intentioned men, trying to be supportive of the women around them, are opting to step back and let women fight this battle. This reticence has started to feel like men are saying, “Not my body, not my problem.” Perhaps our state legislators recognize this reluctance to get involved, thus freeing them to vote against women’s rights.

Sometimes an abortion is unwanted but necessary for a woman’s health. Sometimes an abortion is wanted but will now be illegal. I think whatever a woman decides must be her decision, not a ruling from the out-of-touch Supreme Court or from a male-dominated state legislature. 

Five years ago, a friend was forced to travel to a Wyoming clinic to get an abortion after a doctor in Idaho told her that abortion was “wrong.” She was angry, and later when she told her father, he said he was proud of her for “sticking up for herself.”

“It was the best money I’ve ever spent,” my friend told me later. “I wouldn’t be half the person I hope to be without making that decision.”

Men retain control over their bodies, but in too many parts of this country, women no longer can. Deciding whether to bear a child is perhaps the biggest decision in any woman’s life. Controlling and criminalizing a woman’s choice is a tragic mistake.

This piece was originally published by Writers on the Range, a nonprofit dedicated to spurring lively conversation about Western issues, and reprinted here with permission.

Rebecca Johnson

Rebecca (Bex) Johnson is a contributor to Writers on the Range, writersontherange.org, a nonprofit dedicated to spurring lively conversation about the West. She works and writes in Jackson.

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  1. 98 abortions in Wyoming in 2021.
    1829 COVID deaths in Wyoming in 2021 – men and women included in the total.
    Why aren’t the anti-choice worried and horrified that the WY citizens and the WY legislature and the WY government did not do more to protect those that were vulnerable?

  2. The right to ownership and decision-making concerning one’s physical body is a fundamental human and civil right. All other rights flow from that. It is a sad day to have seen that autonomy stripped from half the population, not by popular demand but by political decree. Until now our country prided itself in expanding the rights (freedoms) of its citizens, and historically in expanding the scope of who qualified as a citizen. This is the first time that civil rights, once codified, have been rescinded.
    The vast majority of abortions are chemically induced first trimester miscarriages, and what is expelled is a small lump of tissue. Not a dismembered baby, not a fetus, but an embryo. No man could come close to understanding a woman’s terror at discovering an unplanned pregnancy, or the outrage of state-enforced gestation and undesired motherhood. If this isn’t “government overreach’—-right into my uterus—, then I’d like to know what is.

    1. I saw the tear or tears in a woman’s eyes as they related their history of abortion to me during review of surgical history. The psychological impact of this decision is huge. Have to note there was one exception where woman seemed to be proud that she had three Abs.

  3. With the new laws by states that even ban abortion in cases of incest and rape are you going to make a 13 yr old girl carry to term the unwanted baby fathered by her father, brother or uncle? Think before you become a champion of the new abortion laws. You are not pro-life since most the politicians who put this law into effect have no laws in effect to help the new single mothers, not even Medicaid in Wyo. They are mostly just pro-birth, to hell with the result, it’s just another throw away child.

  4. There were over 285,000 youmg Americans lost in WWII. There were 1 Million young Americans lost to Abortion in America last year. Today in our Nation 1 in 4 mothers choose to Abort a pregnancy??

  5. I can think of no other situation where the fight is about the “right” to end the life another human being…..especially a preborn helpless human.

  6. Wyoming is trying to “subjugate women.” Really? All SCOTUS said was that abortion isn’t covered in the Constitution, so now it’s left up to the states to decide. And so is the author implying that Wyoming is now going to ignore the 13th Amendment and reinstate slavery? Though this time, apparently just for women I guess.

  7. Evidently it is okay to murder a human sustained inside your body but it is illegal outside of the body. It is illegal to unplug life support without lots of documentation. But okay to use abortion as birth control to willfully end a life because you have a “right?” And expect taxes to pay for you. Especially heinous when that baby is beyond 15 weeks gestation. I did not lose any “rights “ or control of my body by this ruling. The federal government did lose some control of a ruling that was wrong in the first place. Now each state can hash out for themselves. If you don’t like where you live because of politics; then move to a more comfortable place for your beliefs. We did.

  8. Let me preface my statement by saying that I am a avid gun owner. With they said it appears that guns have more rights than women in this state and in this country. Guns, also seem to have more rights than the students they kill. Do fetuses have more rights than a 3rd grader.

    It appears that when our beloved Wyoming legislator wants government involvement when it helps them. But, refuses it when they don’t think it is in “their” best interest. Not our interest but theirs.

    Let us not forget the many times they have snubbed their noses at Medicaid Expansion which could help low income women pay for child birth if they want to keep their baby.

    Recent data indicates about $16,000 of cost from conception thru birth if all goes well. Then the cost of raising the child. I can’t imagine the costs if their are major complications.

    Denying women’s right to abortion is a Giant step for “men” and is a hundred year step back for women.

    Roe vs Wade is just another overstep of governmental power.
    When the Supreme Court is controlled by the politicians, we are a country in big trouble.

  9. I am so dumbfounded that we have stepped back in time to where women can’t make decisions about reproductive freedom. Being forced to give birth at a time they aren’t ready, is a life changing detriment. Those who claim to be pro-life are really just pro-birth and will cry and scream about “welfare moms,” and oppose SNAP benefits, Medicaid and other benefits. I can’t believe any of them will line up to adopt a baby. We do little about encouraging men to “keep it in their pants,” or take responsibility for a baby after it is born. One gender gets to push women for sex, walk away and condemn women for wanting an abortion. What is “equal” about that?

    1. Abortion is a true dilemma. Forced pregnancy is temporary slavery, but few pregnant women were raped or assaulted, so is the pregnancy forced, or just stupid? Unless forced upon, the woman had some part in the creation of the fetus. Therefore, the argument of “my body, my choice” had already been fulfilled. The taxpayers should NEVER be responsible for foolish personal decisions, but this is what the pro-abortion crowd wants.

  10. Rebecca Johnson’s letter was sensitive, thoughtful and honest.
    She is not a reactive person.
    It’s important for women and men to be able to make critical life decisions by weighing all the situational factors in their own life, whether it’s a bad relationship or assault, mental inability to raise a child, or numerous other life issues that would make an infant’s life difficult to impossible. Not all women are designed to be mothers…just because they can conceive; certainly not all men are capable of being decent fathers.
    My take-away is “Mind your own business”!
    Our Governor is making a bad mistake on this one…
    “Man-up Mark”, don’t go extreme right by upending human rights.
    We voted for a man who could think for himself.
    Let’s keep Wyoming the state that has always represented Freedom.
    Thank you.

  11. Interesting–not one comment below that raises the issue of forced subservience to the state that now forced on women. Let’s turn the tables a bit–once a man has fathered two children (in or out of marriage) he is forced by the state to surrender his body for a mandatory vasectomy. Seems only fair–forced birth for one gender, balanced by forced sterilization for the other.

    1. No – not a vasectomy – but a surgery to prevent erection and ejaculation. Intercourse is only for the creation of a child – right?

  12. If preventing the mother from destroying the baby is preventing her from control over her body, what do you call taking the life of an unborn human baby……doesn’t give it much control does it?

  13. Curiously missing from any of the Pro Choice discussions is mention of the clump of tissue some us refer to as babies or fetus’ The intellectually shallow discussions by Pro Choice advocates are bereft of the recognition of human beings who can physically feel pain as they are dismembered and killed. On a different note, but also curious is the lack of discussion of what “Planned Parenthood” means. With small caps it would imply that both sexes “plan” for parenthood. That would include vasectomies for men and condoms. Where are the woman’s libbers on demanding that men participate in preventing unplanned pregnancies? Or, is the reality that Planned Parenthood has no interest in any agenda other than cleaning up the mess of “Unplanned Parenthood” by murdering babies and selling their parts? Convince me otherwise.

  14. A woman’s unrestricted reproductive rights exist until the moment she conceives. It is her choice, her duty, to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Conception creates within her a new life. That human life, although defenseless, has rights too. Foremost, the right to life! Our Declaration of Independence declares we are endowed by our Creator with… “certain inalienable Rights, that among these are life…”! The right to life is not a political issue!
    The pregnant mother and father must assume responsibility for the life they created. If a mother’s life or health, including long-term emotional stability, is an issue then that must be considered. But if the decision is solely for selfishness or convenience then the unwanted life must be defended. There are many examples, most recently compulsory COVID vaccinations, which expose the hypocrisy of “My body, my choice”, especially among liberal Americans.
    The unborn infant is a living human being, its life as precious as any other. We all went through the same stages of development from conception through birth to become who we are. The next time you look in a mirror consider how you began life.
    Many advocates condone abortion up to and immediately following birth. What magic knowledge or time frame determines that the flesh, organs, and body parts removed during an abortion are not human.
    Isn’t adoption a better solution than taking a life? Liberal Americans often hold protests or vigils on behalf of convicted murderers facing execution. Should not all decent people protest the execution of an innocent unborn human?
    Sincerely and respectfully,
    John

    1. There are over 400 thousand kids in foster care. Why doesn’t the religious right show concern for the kids who are already alive instead of the unborn and non-viable?

  15. The comment made in reference to abortion is ‘my body, my choice’ Funny, that’s the comment I make to the covid jab. The covid jab would only hurt me, abortion would take a child’s life.

  16. The people who argue of my body my choice when vaccine was forced upon us were very critical of folks that didn’t want the shot. It is the states right to regulate this policy. So put it on the Ballot. Bear in mind we are a Republic. That means the leaders are to govern the way citizens want to be. Not ruled over but Goverened. Get on the ballot. Show the leaders the way. It either has enough general support or it doesn’t. Quit using this economic arguement. No time in history has it been easy or cheap to raise a family. But we did it. Remember. You exsist today to make the arguement of abortion simply because your mom/dad didn’t abort you. They made the sacrifice for you.