Wyoming Abortions Soon to be Outlawed as U.S. Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade

Abortion providers say the ruling will have “devastating effects,” while pro-life advocates hail the decision

  • Published In: Politics
  • Last Updated: Jun 24, 2022

The U.S. Supreme Court Friday overturned Roe v. Wade, which granted the constitutional right to abortions. Gov. Mark Gordon of Wyoming called the decision a “decisive win for those who have fought for the rights of the unborn for the past 50 years.” (Courtesy photo of the U.S. Supreme Court)

By Jacob Gardenswartz

Special to the Wyoming Truth

WASHINGTON — In a highly-anticipated and controversial ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court Friday eliminated the constitutional right to abortion care, overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision which enshrined that right nearly half a century ago. 

In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the six conservative justices held that a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks should be allowed to stand. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. agreed the Mississippi law is constitutional but said he wouldn’t have gone so far as to overturn Roe. The three liberal justices dissented. 

Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Justice Samuel Alito Jr. wrote for the majority. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”   

Pictured is the Wellspring Health Access’ abortion clinic in Casper, Wyoming. The clinic was set to open in June, but has faced a number of setbacks, including an arson attempt last month. Julie Burkhart, founder of Wellspring Health Access, called the Supreme Court’s ruling “a devastating blow to abortion access” in Wyoming. (Courtesy photo of Wellspring Health Access)

In Wyoming, one of 13 states with what are called “trigger laws” intended to automatically ban abortions once Roe was overturned, abortion providers reacted with anger and desperation. House Bill 92, signed into law earlier this year, made it illegal to provide abortions in the state with limited exceptions for cases of sexual assault, incest, or if the pregnancy could lead to severe illness or death for the individual carrying the fetus. Representatives for Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill, whose office is responsible for implementing the state’s ban, did not respond to requests for comment.  

Abortion rights advocates have described Wyoming as an “abortion desert,” with virtually nowhere to go for abortion care. Wellspring Health Access hoped to change that with plans to open a clinic in Casper. Even before Friday’s ruling, though, the anticipated June opening was delayed after a fire broke out in the space, which police are investigating for possible arson.   

Julie Burkhart, the group’s founder and president, said in a Friday press conference that it is a “horribly sad day” and that the ruling is “heartbreaking at best.”  

The ruling has  “devastating effects on people’s fundamental rights, the fundamental rights of women and all people to make decisions about their lives, their bodies, their families without interference from politicians or judges,” Burkhart added. 

Sharon Breitweiser, executive director of Pro-Choice Wyoming, noted that the state’s ban already imposed criminal penalties for individuals who provide abortions, but feared penalties for those seeking them could be next. That’s “always a concern,” Breitweiser said, adding that it’s “not much of a stretch” to conclude that the next step for abortion opponents would be pursuing measures that could lead to “jail time” for those seeking abortions. 

Reached by phone, Dr. Brent Blue of Jackson said provisions that made it a crime for medical professionals to provide abortions would not only hurt individuals seeking the procedures but Wyomingites more broadly, noting “terminations” typically only amount to a small fraction of a physician’s work. If doctors are jailed for providing abortions, Blue said, patients would lose out on other types of vital care physicians provide.  

Blue, who at one point was the last doctor providing surgical abortions in the state, lambasted the “sexist, racist” law, noting the abortion ban will disproportionately impact those of lower socioeconomic background. “It just keeps them in a cycle of poverty that they can’t break out of,” he said. 

In a statement, the ACLU of Wyoming noted that despite the existence of the trigger law, “the fight for abortion rights in Wyoming isn’t over. We will continue to challenge efforts contrary to our right to make our own reproductive health care decisions.”  

Republican leaders in the state, however, cheered the decision. Gov. Mark Gordon celebrated what he called a “decisive win” for pro-life advocates, noting that he “signed Wyoming’s prohibition on abortion bill because I believe that the decision to regulate abortions should be left to the states.”  

State Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams (R-Cody) the lead sponsor of the trigger law, said Friday is “a great day in Wyoming and our nation.” 

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, a Republican, said in a statement she was “pleased the control over this issue returned to where it belongs – in the hands of duly-elected state legislatures,” and U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, also a Republican, said the ruling ensures the United States “will no longer have the same anti-life laws as countries like communist China and North Korea.” 

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, a Republican, highlighted her longstanding pro-life credentials, noting the ruling “returns power to the states and the people of the states to address the issue of abortion under state law.”   

Harriet Hageman, Cheney’s GOP primary opponent, said in a statement the ruling is a “literal life-saving victory for millions of unborn babies.” Hageman also used the opportunity to attack Cheney on the issue, writing that Cheney “has lost the ability to be an advocate for anyone, including unborn babies, since she has shredded any chance that she can effectively represent Wyoming any longer.”  

Across the country, there is broad support for abortion rights, with 61 percent of Americans believing abortion should legal in most or all cases and 37 percent saying it should be illegal most or all of the time, according to a 2022 Pew Research poll; 2 percent gave no answer. 

The bombshell ruling is also likely to further inflame public opinion about the Supreme Court. On Thursday, a Gallup poll found just 25 percent of Americans said they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the Supreme Court, an historic low.  

In a speech at the White House, President Joe Biden said Friday was a “sad day for the Court and the country.” 

“Now with Roe gone,” he said, “let’s be very clear, the health and life of women across this nation are now at risk.” 

Shen Wu Tan and Jennifer Kocher contributed to this report.  

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