Wyoming just tonight became the first state to outlaw the use of abortion pills, as Governor Mark Gordon allowed the measure to pass into law.
Under the new law, medication abortion providers could be sentenced to six months in prison.
Wyoming’s new law comes as a preliminary ruling is expected soon by a Texas judge that could order the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to withdraw its approval of mifepristone, the first pill in the two-drug medication abortion regimen. Such a ruling, if it stands, could upend how abortion is provided nationally, affecting states where abortion is legal as well as states with bans and restrictions, according to the New York Times.
Legislation to ban or add restrictions on medication abortion has been introduced in several states this year, including a bill in Texas that would not only ban abortion pills but also require internet service providers to take steps to block medication abortion websites so people in Texas could not view them.
In these states, proposals to block or restrict abortion pills have typically been introduced along with other anti-abortion measures, a reflection of the range of obstacles to abortion these states have tried to erect since the Supreme Court overturned the national right to abortion last June.
Medication abortion is already outlawed in states that have total bans, since those bans already prohibit all forms of abortion.
Gov. Mark Gordon of Wyoming, a Republican, signed that state’s abortion pill ban on the same day that he said he would allow another more sweeping measure banning abortion to become law without his signature. That law, which takes effect on Sunday, would ban abortion under almost all circumstances, making it a felony to provide an abortion.
“I have acted without bias and after extensive prayer, to allow these bills to become law,” Mr. Gordon wrote in a letter to Wyoming’s secretary of state released on Friday evening.
The broader ban outlaws medication abortion as well, and the measure that bans abortion pills would mostly have the effect of adding additional penalties for medication abortion providers.
Both laws are likely to be challenged quickly in court by abortion providers, who will seek to prevent the bans from taking effect while the legal challenge proceeds. A previously enacted abortion ban has so far been blocked by the courts after providers and others filed suit claiming that the law violated the Wyoming state Constitution’s guarantee of freedom in health care decisions. The newly enacted abortion ban is an attempt to circumvent that constitutional provision by declaring that abortion is not health care.
When will the abortion pill ban take effect?
Wyoming’s abortion pill law would take effect on July 1 and would make it illegal to “prescribe, dispense, distribute, sell or use any drug for the purpose of procuring or performing an abortion.” Doctors or anyone else found guilty of violating this law would be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in prison and a $9,000 fine. The law explicitly says that pregnant patients will be exempt from charges and penalties.
Wyoming has only one clinic that provides abortions, Women’s Health & Family Care Clinic in Jackson. It provides only medication abortion, not the surgical procedure.