Wyoming abortion-rights advocates vow to fight overturn of Roe v. Wade

A new reproductive health clinic scheduled to open in Casper vowed Friday to fight to preserve the legal right to abortion in Wyoming. Wyoming’s congressional delegation applauded the Supreme Court ruling.
Jackson abortion rights protest
Demonstrators gathered at the Jackson Town Square on May 3, 2022, following the leak of a draft Supreme Court decision overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that has guaranteed Americans the constitutional right to abortion since 1973. The court officially overturned Roe v. Wade Friday. (Will Walkey/KHOL)

The organization behind a new reproductive health clinic in Casper, which is set to become the first provider of surgical abortions in Wyoming when it opens, held a press conference Friday following the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade—the constitutional right to an abortion in the U.S.

The Wellspring Health Access clinic had been scheduled to open in mid-June but was damaged by an act of suspected arson in late May. Now, it likely won’t be ready to provide patient care for another four to six months, according to Founder and President of Wellspring Health Access Julie Burkhart. And that could be well after Wyoming’s “trigger ban” on nearly all abortions goes into effect.

“This is heartbreaking at best,” Burkhart said of Friday’s ruling. “But what we are going to continue to do is to get our clinic ready to open. We are going to exhaust all of our options for keeping abortion legal in the State of Wyoming. We firmly believe that people have to have their fundamental rights, and this ruling is clearly out of step with the vast majority of Americans across this country.”

61% of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances, according to a 2022 survey by the Pew Research Center, though many are open to restrictions.

As for specific grounds for a legal fight against Wyoming’s abortion ban, Burkhart and other abortion-rights advocates have pointed to Article 1, Section 38 of the Constitution of the State of Wyoming. The article states, in part, “Each competent adult shall have the right to make his or her own health care decisions.” It also grants the state legislature the right to “determine reasonable and necessary restrictions on the rights granted under this section to protect the health and general welfare of the people or to accomplish the other purposes set forth in the Wyoming Constitution.”

The only other provider of medical abortion services in Wyoming—which are available just during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy—is located in Jackson.

State Rep. Patrick Sweeney (R–Natrona County), who was one of the few Wyoming Republicans to vote against the “trigger ban” earlier this year, joined Burkhart for Friday’s virtual press conference. He said he fears that Wyoming legislators won’t stop at banning nearly all abortions.

“Sadly, the efforts to restrict abortion in Wyoming have likely only just begun. The exceptions for rape and incest in the trigger ban were added late in the legislative process—I am very thankful that they were—but there’s a good chance that the legislature will revisit those in the future,” Sweeney said. “The only way to stop these restrictions is for people in Wyoming who support personal freedom to speak out and hold their elected officials accountable.”

“Wyoming is the Equality State,” Sweeney continued, “and I think it’s shameful that many of my colleagues seem to have forgotten that when it comes to women’s rights and women’s bodies.”

Another of Friday’s speakers, the Rev. Leslie Kee, who serves Unitarian Universalist faith communities in Casper and Laramie, focused her remarks on the need to maintain the separation of church and state in the U.S.

“The religious fundamental right has taken the government and privileged their understanding of their deity and their source of moral authority and inserted it between a woman and whoever or whatever her source of moral authority is,” Kee said. “It is deeply and morally offensive to me that religion has been used to privilege one point of view over all the others.”

All three Republican members of Wyoming’s congressional delegation, including Rep. Liz Cheney and senators John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis Tweeted and/or issued statements in favor of the Supreme Court’s decision Friday. They argue that the move returns decisions about how to regulate abortion to its rightful place in state legislatures.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon also signaled his approval Friday. Gordon is expected to certify a review of the Roe v. Wade decision by Wyoming’s attorney general within 35 days in order to officially put the state’s abortion ban into effect.

Meanwhile, the Wyoming Democratic Caucus also released a statement Friday vowing to resist what they describe as efforts by Wyoming Republicans to assault “women’s rights, our LGBTQ community, and those without access to healthcare.”

“The effects [of the ruling] will be devastating on our society’s hardest hit. For many women, it will limit their ability to choose whether they fully participate in the workforce or are forced to be mothers by the state,” the statement read.

“Additionally, as a state, Wyoming has moved to attack births covered by Medicaid and does not cover or support paid family leave. It is extremely difficult and expensive to find daycare and affordable healthcare for children in Wyoming. Even the current State Superintendent of Public Instruction is moving to reject federal funding for school lunches. The state has been making it harder to succeed as a family in Wyoming while simultaneously limiting women’s reproductive choices.”

As of press time, a protest against the Roe v. Wade decision was scheduled to take place at the Jackson Town Square at 5 p.m. Friday.

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About Kyle Mackie

Kyle is a multimedia journalist who joined KHOL as news director in January 2021. Prior to moving West, she reported on education, immigration, racial justice and more for WBFO, the NPR affiliate in Buffalo, NY. With a background in international reporting, Kyle has also worked in Israel and the Palestinian territories and the Western Balkans. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international affairs and geography from The George Washington University and master’s degree in journalism from the City University of New York. When not out reporting, Kyle can usually be found trail running, climbing, skiing or grooving to live music.

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