By Mead Gruver | Associated Press
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Abortion pills will remain legal in Wyoming for now, after a judge ruled Thursday that the state’s first-in-the-nation law to ban them won’t take effect July 1 as planned while a lawsuit proceeds.
Attorneys for Wyoming failed to show that allowing the ban to take effect on schedule wouldn’t harm the lawsuit’s plaintiffs before their lawsuit can be resolved, Teton County Judge Melissa Owens ruled.
While other states have instituted de facto bans on the medication by broadly prohibiting abortion, Wyoming in March became the first U.S. state to specifically ban abortion pills.
Two nonprofit organizations, including an abortion clinic that opened in Casper in April; and four women, including two obstetricians, have sued to challenge the law. They asked Owens to suspend the ban while their lawsuit plays out.
The plaintiffs are also suing to stop a new, near-total ban on abortion in the state.
Both new laws were enacted after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last year. Since then, some 25 million women and teenagers have been subjected to either stricter controls on ending their pregnancies or almost total bans on the procedure.
Owens combined the two Wyoming lawsuits against new restrictions into one case. Owens suspended the state’s general abortion ban days after it took effect in March.
Wellspring Health Access, Wyoming’s first full-service abortion clinic in years, offers pill abortions among its services. Previously only one other clinic in Wyoming — a women’s health center in Jackson, some 250 miles away — offered the option.
In recent years, medication abortions using two kinds of pills, usually taken days apart, have become the preferred method for ending pregnancy in the U.S., in part because the process offers a less invasive alternative to surgical abortions. Until Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon signed the legislation outlawing medication abortions, no state had passed a law specifically prohibiting abortion pills, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
However, 13 states enacted blanket abortion bans that included medical abortions and 15 states already had limited access to the pills.
Wyoming officials have vowed to “vigorously defend” the state’s new laws, while opponents say they infringe on women’s basic rights.
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