A group of protesters in front of the capitol building on a cloudy day
Pro-abortion rights activists gather in front of the capitol building in Cheyenne on June 30, 2022. (Mike Vanata/Wyofile)

Gov. Mark Gordon signed a bill banning medication-induced abortions Friday night and will allow another near-complete ban to go into effect without his signature. 

“As I noted, I have a strong record of protecting the lives of the unborn, as well as their mothers,” he said in a letter to the Secretary of State. “I believe all life is sacred and that every individual, including the unborn, should be treated with dignity and compassion.”

Gordon raised concerns that further litigation with these bills could delay implementation of any bans. He also noted that there are inconsistent penalties listed in the two pieces of legislation. One includes misdemeanor charges while the other threatens a felony. 

“I recognize that [the two bills] were delivered by the same Legislature, so I must presume the Legislature understood that these inconsistencies could create confusion regarding restrictions on abortions,” he stated. “That said, a majority of the Legislature spoke on this matter and consequently I have acted without bias and after extensive prayer, to allow these bills to become law.”

Last week, Gordon told reporters he was weighing potential unintended consequences and constitutional challenges as he considered the bans. 

Referencing his decision to let the near-total ban go into effect, he stated, “while it may offer some improvement to the bill I signed just last year, I believe now more than ever that if the Legislature seeks final resolution on this important issue, it ultimately may have to come through a Constitutional amendment.”

Lawmaker concerns about constitutional issues leading to more litigation have already proven to have merit.

The same group suing over the ban passed last year filed suit again Friday morning over the near-total ban, according to reporting by Jackson Hole Community Radio

The plaintiffs, which include health care providers and not-yet-open abortion clinic Wellspring Health Access, are also suing the same defendants. That includes the state, governor, attorney general, Teton County Sheriff and the Jackson chief of police. 

The history

Gordon signed a trigger ban on abortion into law almost exactly a year ago: March 15, 2022. It was written to go into effect if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — which it did in June. 

A group of medical professionals, women and nonprofits filed a lawsuit over the new law, and the district court judge overseeing that case later granted a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction, which kept the ban from going into effect.

After some legal wrangling and the Wyoming Supreme Court declining to take up the matter, the case is now back before Ninth District Court Judge Melissa Owens and is set to be heard in Jackson this coming December

Some legislators argued that the state should wait to learn that law’s fate in the courts before passing other, similar bans.

Sen. Ed Cooper (R-Ten Sleep) voted for House Bill 152 – Life is a Human Right Act — the near complete ban — but admitted on the Senate floor he wasn’t sure about how it’d work alongside the current law. 

Mark Gordon stands behind a podium looking down while people clap in the background
Gov. Mark Gordon giving his 2023 state of the state address to the 67th Legislature. (Megan Lee Johnson/WyoFile)

“What will the passing of this bill do to the current legislation that’s in the courts? Does it negate it?” he asked. “And if it does … probably that means this will be in the courts, and we’re back another year, two years further back. I’m pretty worried about that.”

Other senators spoke out more strongly in opposition to passing HB 152. 

“I fail to see what this bill accomplishes in supplementation to the bill that is now in the court system of Wyoming,” Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander) said. “When the courts rule, the courts will rule. And we’ll all stand there and look at each other and decide what to do then.”

Case added that he felt it violated Article 1, Section 7, of the Wyoming Constitution which states: “Absolute, arbitrary power over the lives, liberty and property of freemen exists nowhere in a republic, not even in the largest majority.”

Others argued that passing these new abortion bans reflects the Legislature’s anti-abortion intent and the “God-given” right to life they see enshrined in the state and U.S. Constitution. 

“Since Roe v. Wade has gone down, we need to just make a statement as this state that we’re going to protect life,” Sen. Bo Biteman (R-Ranchester) said, a cosponsor of the bill. “I don’t think it matters how much it costs. We have an obligation to protect life in this chamber and protect people’s constitutional rights.” 

Lawmakers have also said HB 152 shores up some possible loopholes. It defines terms like “pregnant” and “abortion,” and it states “abortion as defined in this act is not health care.” 

Plaintiffs in the ongoing legal challenge to last year’s trigger ban have argued that the ban violates the state constitution, which states: “Each competent adult shall have the right to make his or her own health care decisions.”

Senate File 109 – Prohibiting chemical abortions focuses solely on abortion induced by medications, though lawmakers in the House and Senate stated concerns about it meeting the same legal challenges as the bill currently tied up in court. 

Both abortion bans have exceptions in cases of rape or incest, though victims would have to report these crimes to law enforcement in order to qualify.

Madelyn Beck reports from Laramie on health and public safety. Before working with WyoFile, she was a public radio journalist reporting for NPR stations across the Mountain West, covering regional issues...

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  1. It’s a shame all these MEN feel the need to control our health. Perhaps there should be a law that vasectomies are mandated too. Or prison for deadbeat dad’s..or make adoptions easier so people quit going overseas to get a kid..time to clean out Wyoming gov’t with democrats who actually care about their constituents.

  2. GOOD WORK Governor!!! As a woman and mother, I want to say thank you for protecting WY woman and children!

  3. Gov. Gordon signed the bill to ban chemical/medical abortions but let the new anti-abortion bill become law without his signature. We are now the first state to ban chemical/medical abortions which got us in the news but not in a good way, again. In his accompanying letter on the anti-abortion bill, he stated several reasons why this was bad legislation but did not veto it. He had the power to act on his reasoning. But not the courage. We are becoming Texas. Or Idaho, which has a similar abortion ban. That ban has led to the Sandpoint hospital closing its maternity ward because OB-GYN doctors are leaving the state due to the political and legal climate. Will Wyoming face a similar situation because of these bans?

  4. I love Wyoming. But, it’s getting harder and harder not to be angry when I see our legislators, including Gov. Gordon, racing around willy nilly pandering to Fundamantalists and Extremists. Do you actually feel that women in Wyoming, or anywhere in the U.S., have no rights??? If so, SHAME on you. Stop letting Vote Seeking illuminate your lack of moral fortitude. Get a grip.

  5. The far-right republicans in this state have forgotten the basic definition of being a Republican i.e. supreme power resides in the body of citizens. Or smaller government for these weak minded controlling individuals (abortion is all about larger government).

    These bills were a waste of time, mental masterbation at best. Instead, use Article 20 which requires 2/3 in both houses and a majority vote of all voters. The Governor has no say in the process.

    The extreme far-right wackos need to either grow some cajones, put it on the ballot or go home. Quit wasting everyone’s time and mental energy.

    Ante-up Eathorne boys.

  6. Used to have some respect for Gordon. He WAS the least of the evils in the last election but .. Knowing that the bills are likely unconstitutional based on the the Wyoming Constitutional right to personal decisions on health care, he signed one bill and let the other become law. A quality public servant that has sworn to uphold the law does not do that. So now we have to pray that the judge in the challenges is not another poor example of conservative ineptitude.

  7. It’s time to quit complaining about the few extremists usurping the democratic processes that belong to all of us to privilege their beliefs over everyone else’s. We know each other and it’s time to start communicating and organizing. Steps are being taken to put together a state-wide coalition to fight this insanity, we are just an email away. I saw how the Viet Nam war was stopped by a grassroots movement — it’s time to quit preaching to the choir and get busy.

  8. The far right have succeeded in turning Wyoming into a fascist state. Women are not safe, my LGBTQ family and friends are not safe. Fetuses have more rights than we do. Get ready for higher rates of suicide, not having access to quality healthcare because no self respecting physician will want to practice in this backwards ass state, and our tax dollars being spent to support the products of forced birth. I hope every democrat in this state registers as a republican (that just made me throw up in my mouth) so we can gut the freedum caucus and return to a live and let live existence before they try to take away more of our voting rights. It will take decades to undo the harm caused by this incompetent legislative body. At least we still have our guns.

  9. Equality State ? Anybody seen my Equality State ? It’s missing. I suspect it was kidnapped and held for ransom by political goons from out of state…

  10. A woman’s body is hers alone. No one has control over it except her, least of all legislators who are ignorant of matters related to the medical field, particularly pregnancy.

  11. This archaic and overtly Christian bill will do nothing but harm. Our state will continue to have a dearth of physicians. If these lawmakers continue to impose their controversial values on the entire state, we will also see the issue of “brain drain” continuing. Young people and moderate and liberal professionals will be looking outside of this state to live a life free from these radical laws.

  12. This is a typical example of the far right’s obsession with fetuses. Gordon gives ZERO shits about the unborn & their moms. Only thing he cares about is his image & reelection. Since WHEN are women LESS human than men?? He’s a TOTAL SELLOUT!