Wyoming District Court Judge Melissa Owens has blocked a law that would have restricted all abortions except in cases of rape or incest or for medical emergencies, after a coalition of abortion providers and supporters filed a lawsuit. The law would have protected nearly all preborn children in the state.
In her ruling, Owens says that the right to abortion is protected in the state’s constitution. “The legislature cannot pass a discriminatory law on the basis of sex that restricts the constitutionally protected right to make one’s own health care decisions,” she wrote. She also claimed that the law is likely to cause “irreparable harm” to women.
“The statute restricts a woman’s right to make their own health care decisions during pregnancy and discriminates against women on the basis of their sex,” wrote Owens. “The statute dilutes the rights available to women in making decisions regarding their health care and whether or not to give birth to a child.”
“Today’s ruling is an important victory for abortion access in Wyoming and in support of Wyomingites’ constitutionally protected right to make decisions about their own health care, which includes abortion care,” said Julie Burkhart, founder of the abortion business Wellspring Health Access.
Wyoming’s “trigger law” protecting nearly all preborn children with the overturn of Roe v. Wade was signed by Governor Mark Gordon in March. It went into effect on July 27, but Owens granted a temporary restraining order almost immediately. That restraining order expired on August 10, but Owens’ current ruling extends the order.
According to the Associated Press, part of the issue at stake is a constitutional amendment passed in 2012, which guarantees the right to make one’s own health care decisions. While Owens claims that the state’s abortion law is in likely violation of this amendment, Wyoming special assistant attorney general Jay Jerde noted Tuesday that voters passed that amendment as an act of resistance against the Affordable Care Act and that it has nothing to do with abortion.
“It’s just not within the facts that were kicking around at the time,” Jerde said during a court hearing.
Jackson Hole News & Guide reports that the preliminary injunction will likely remain in place until Owens presides over a court trial regarding the lawsuit. The state could also choose to appeal her decision, which would then send it to the Wyoming Supreme Court.
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