© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Used boxes of pills of mifepristone, the first drug used in medical abortion, fill a trash can at the Alamo Women’s Clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S., January 11, 2023. REUTERS/ Evleyn Hockstein
By Dan Whitcomb and Steve Gorman
(Reuters) – Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon signed into law on Friday a bill banning the use or prescription of medical abortion pills that was passed by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature earlier this month.
Gordon, a Republican, signed the law as a federal judge in Texas plans to order a nationwide ban on the abortion pill mifepristone in response to a lawsuit filed by anti-abortion groups.
The core of Wyoming’s two-page bill is a provision prohibiting “prescribing, dispensing, distributing, selling, or using any drug for the purpose of procuring or performing an abortion.”
So-called “morning after” pills, i.e. prescription contraceptives used after intercourse but before a pregnancy can be confirmed, are exempt from the ban.
The measure also includes an exemption for any treatment necessary to protect a woman “from imminent peril which seriously endangers her life or health”, as well as any treatment of a “natural miscarriage according to currently accepted medical guidelines”. .
Violating the ban should be treated as a criminal offense, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $9,000.
The measure stipulates that a woman “on whom a chemical abortion is performed or attempted will not be criminally prosecuted”.
The governor said he is also authorizing the enactment, without his signature, of a separate bill passed by state lawmakers to ban conventional abortion procedures except when necessary to protect health and the life of the mother, or in the event of rape or incest.
An exception is also allowed for terminating a pregnancy if doctors determine there is a life-threatening abnormality in the fetus.
Legal battles over abortion rights have intensified in the United States following a Supreme Court ruling last year that overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade legalizing the proceedings.
Gordon acknowledged that abortion-rights supporters who previously challenged Wyoming’s “trigger” abortion ban that went into effect after the Roe v. Wade sued to preemptively block Wyoming’s recently passed ban.
The governor expressed concern that enacting the new abortion ban could cloud legal waters, creating a new obstacle to a speedy resolution of the case through the courts.