Wyoming Ninth District Court Judge Melissa Owens presides at a hearing in the suit challenging the first of two Wyoming laws to ban abortion. (WyoFile/Jackson Hole News&Guide/AP/Bradly J. Boner)

A judge has ordered that the suit challenging the constitutionality of Wyoming’s abortion ban be certified, or advanced, to the Wyoming Supreme Court, and has enumerated 12 questions of law for justices to answer.

Ninth District Judge Melissa Owens issued the order Wednesday afternoon, siding with the state of Wyoming that sought to move the issue to the higher court.

Three women and two pro-choice groups sued the state earlier this year claiming the abortion ban, which became law on July 27, was unconstitutional.

Owens issued a temporary restraining order July 28 and then a preliminary injunction preventing the law from taking effect.

“The matter involves questions of law which will be determinative of the cause and concerning which it appears there is no controlling precedent in the decisions of the Wyoming Supreme Court,” Owens wrote. Under court rules, the high court “may answer questions of law certified to it by … a state district court….”

The questions of law to be answered include whether the abortion ban bill as codified violates the Wyoming Constitution’s Article 1, sections 2, 3, 6, 7, 18, 33, 34, 36, 38 and Article 21, section 25. Her order also asks the Supreme Court to answer whether the abortion ban bill is “unconstitutionally vague on its face” and whether it violates a Wyoming citizen’s right to privacy.

Owens on Wednesday also filed a 13-page order denying two legislators’ and Right to Life of Wyoming’s requests to intervene, or join, in the case. 

“The court is sympathetic to the [legislators and Right to Life’s] desire to intervene in this matter,” Owens wrote. “As advocates and lawmakers, the Court recognizes that the issues before the Court strike at the very heart of RTLW’s advocacy efforts as well as the individual Legislators’ personal convictions and legislative efforts.

“However,” she wrote, “the [legislators’ and RTLW’s] interests do not rise to the level of a significant protectable interest under the law.”

Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at angus@wyofile.com or (307)...

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  1. The pro birth crowd are the original “intervenors”. It’s unfortunate that the courts won’t tell them to kick rocks as well.

  2. Hopefully the Supreme Court of Wyoming will agree that our state Constitution holds freedom to act in our own interest with all healthcare matters is guaranteed and that no one, especially government, has a right to interfere or withhold that right. Women under the Wyoming Constitution are equal and have all rights as men do.

    1. “Women under the Wyoming Constitution are equal and have all rights as men..”

      That WAS true. But if the abortion ban is upheld it will cease to be true. Women will be denied, under the law and in contrast to men, the right to make medical decisions about their own bodies.

      This denial of rights is usually applied to only minor children and mentally incompetent persons. So if the abortion ban is upheld, the question arises as to whether women should even have the right to vote.

      Republican women of Wyoming: Be careful what you wish for.

  3. As a former, retired judge (not in Wyoming) I have been following this case. I appreciate Wyofile’s thorough and balanced reporting on the case. I am even more impressed with Judge Owens’ work on this difficult and high profile case. Her even temperament, judicial demeanor, and thoughtful, reasoned and articulate decisions are impressive. Her work makes me proud of being a fellow UW College of Law grad. (Class of 1974) with Judge Owens, and to have served in the same profession as Judge Owens.