Wyoming Has Become The First State To Ban The Abortion Pill

The new ban, which prohibits any prescription, distribution, or use of medication abortion, carries a penalty of up to six months’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $9,000.

Abortion rights adovcates gather in front of the J Marvin Jones Federal Building and Courthouse in Amarillo, Texas, on March 15, 2023.

Wyoming has banned the abortion pill, becoming the first state to specifically outlaw using medication for abortion in the “Prohibiting chemical abortions” bill that became state law on Friday.

Gov. Mark Gordon signed the bill the same day he said he would not veto another statewide abortion ban, a near-total prohibition that makes providing abortion a felony and goes into effect this Sunday. The medication abortion ban will go into effect July 1.

According to the new law, it is illegal to “to prescribe, dispense, distribute, sell or use any drug for the purpose of procuring or performing an abortion,” and anyone found to be violating the rule can be imprisoned for up to six months, fined $9,000, or both.

Plan B One-Step and other morning-after pills that are taken before pregnancy is confirmed are exempted from the ban, and exceptions are also stated for cases of sexual assault, incest, “natural miscarriage,” and procedures for “imminent peril that substantially endangers [a pregnant person's] life or health,” not including mental health conditions. The law also exempts the pregnant person from prosecution for their own abortion.

Gordon said he believed the new laws will likely be challenged in court and urged a state referendum on abortion, per the Washington Post. “I believe this question needs to be decided as soon as possible so that the issue of abortion in Wyoming can be finally resolved, and that is best done with a vote of the people,” he said.

Fifteen states have some restriction on medication abortion, according to reproductive rights think tank the Guttmacher Institute, in addition to the 12 states where it is already de facto banned under general bans on abortion. However, Wyoming is the first state to prohibit medication abortion specifically and separately from other general bans.

Currently, the Women’s Health & Family Care Clinic in Jackson, Wyoming, is the only abortion clinic in the state, according to the New York Times. The clinic only provides the pill, not surgical procedures.

Abortion rights protesters chant slogans during a gathering to protest the Supreme Court's decision in the Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health case on June 24, 2022 in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

The law comes as several states have pushed forward anti-abortion measures following the Supreme Court's overturn of Roe v. Wade. On Wednesday, a Texas judge heard arguments in a case brought by an anti-abortion group that is seeking to have mifepristone, one of two drugs commonly used in abortion medication, removed from the market by the Food and Drug Administration. Many are waiting for the ruling, which could make mifepristone unavailable even in states where abortion is legal.

Nationally, medication abortion is estimated to account for more than half of abortions in the United States.

In a public statement, the ACLU of Wyoming’s advocacy director Antonio Serrano condemned the bans. “A person’s health, not politics, should guide important medical decisions – including the decision to have an abortion,” Serrano said. “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.”

Wyoming was the first state to grant women the right to vote in 1869. After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, the state’s abortion ban trigger law, which went into effect with the fall of Roe, became a legal battleground as lawmakers debated its constitutionality, causing a judge to grant a preliminary injunction to suspend the trigger law while the legal battles played out.

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