Even with Roe v. Wade — the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a constitutional right to abortion — women in Wyoming have limited access to abortions. Only two providers, both based in Jackson, offer abortions, forcing most residents to take time off work to travel out of state.
But with Monday’s leaked Supreme Court opinion suggesting 5-4 support to overturn Roe v. Wade, advocates said that limited access would all-but disappear.
Dr. Brent Blue, the lone surgical abortion provider in the state, called it “the greatest threat to women’s healthcare” of his 45-year career as a physician.
“In a state that believes in keeping government out of people’s lives, we’re sure doing the opposite,” he told the News&Guide on Tuesday.
Wyoming is one of 13 states with “trigger ban” laws in effect, meaning the moment Roe v. Wade is overturned, it becomes illegal to perform an abortion except in cases of sexual assault, incest, or the risk of death or severe injury to the person giving birth.
Idaho’s trigger ban goes a step further by making providing abortions a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
Blue said he would effectively be forced to stop offering abortions if the ban goes into effect.
The law could also prevent Wyoming’s first surgical abortion clinic from opening in Casper this summer. That initiative, led by Julie Burkhart, director of Wellspring Health Access, formerly Circle of Hope, has already been the site of several protests.
But Rev. Leslie Kee of Casper’s Unitarian Universalist Church, who serves on a community advisory board that supports the clinic, believes there’s a way to challenge Wyoming’s trigger ban in court. She said the committee and Burkhart are “firmly committed” to opening the clinic if and while that legal battle unfolds.
Like other advocates, Kee was glued to the TV last night as news from the Supreme Court dominated headlines.
“Intellectually, we all had an idea that it was coming, but it’s like a kick in the gut,” she said. “It’s visceral.”
On Tuesday morning, Sharon Breitweiser, Executive Director of Pro-Choice Wyoming, joined a webinar with 250 advocacy organizations from across the nation, all grappling with how to respond to the sudden threat to women’s healthcare.
She told the News&Guide there hasn’t been time for her to read every word of the Supreme Court’s draft decision, but to see Roe v. Wade so “explicitly and unequivocally overturned” in its conclusion, she said, was “stunning” and “heartbreaking.”
“It’s definitely an alarming wake-up call, and folks need to be speaking out,” she said.
Nationwide, organizations planned rallies for 5 p.m. Tuesday. More than 100 demonstrators took to Jackson’s Town Square on Tuesday evening to voice their support for abortion access with signs like “My Body My Choice” and “Y’all Forget What Freedom Means.” Two-year-old Cody Stinson held a sign that read “Men of Quality don’t fear Equality,” and Teton County Rep. Mike Yin, D-Teton, pledged to fight the trigger bill in Wyoming’s next legislative session.
Pro-Choice Wyoming hasn’t planned any specific events yet, but plans to lobby legislators with renewed energy, Breitweiser said.
She was also concerned that a win for pro-life advocates would embolden them to pursue what she called “nightmare scenarios,” such as restricting travel out of state and banning abortion medication by mail.
Marti Halverson, president of Wyoming Right to Life, said her organization would not be packing its bags and silently celebrating victory if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Instead, advocates would try to prevent Wyoming residents from receiving abortion medication in the mail, she said: “We want to stop those drugs from being prescribed or delivered to Wyoming.”
As for preventing women from crossing state lines to receive an abortion, something lawmakers are pursuing in other states, Halverson said Right to Life doesn’t yet have an official stance. Personally, she said she would oppose that type of legislation because it infringes on personal liberty.
While members of Wyoming Right to Life “deplore the leak,” as a sign of a dysfunctional federal government, Halverson said they are “thrilled” by the prospect of overturning Roe v. Wade.
“This was beyond my wildest expectations, but in line with my most fervent hope and prayer,” Halverson said.
Right to Life lobbied heavily to get Wyoming to adopt a trigger bill and Halverson said they have the “utmost confidence” that Gov. Mark Gordon will use that law to ban abortions in Wyoming, if Roe v. Wade is indeed overturned.