The Wyoming Republican Party says it stands behind its recent social media post that compared abortions to school shootings. The post reads “Planned Parenthood killed more children today before 9 a.m. than any school shooting in American history. Paid for with your taxes.”
Since the post was published on the Wyoming GOP’s Facebook page on May 22, it has drawn more than 300 comments and nearly 3,000 shares.
Many of the people who reacted to the post pointed out that Planned Parenthood does not use tax dollars to fund abortions. The 1976 Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of federal funding for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or threat to a woman’s life. And it’s worth noting: Wyoming’s only Planned Parenthood, located in Casper, shut down in 2017.
Wyoming GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne explained the party’s strategy in delivering that post.
“Those are designed to get people thinking, they are designed to be provocative in thought and yes we know sometimes they are controversial, that is a side effect. The main point is to bring attention to what we think is realistic facts that will get people to think and discuss. We’re seeing a lot of movement in the right to life and how folks across the country are thinking about it and it’s part of our purpose to help perpetuate that thought and that discussion.”
Eathorne wouldn’t acknowledge the post’s factual inaccuracy. He says funding Planned Parenthood with any amount of federal dollars just doesn’t sit well with the party.
“We’re going to stand behind [the post]. At a recent training, the Wyoming delegation had the opportunity to talk to other states, Missouri, Alabama and Louisiana, about Planned Parenthood funding and that it is taxpayer funded and that they do perform abortions. In fact, they are the most prolific provider of abortions.”
In a statement issued to KHOL, Planned Parenthood of the Rockies called Eathorne and the Wyoming GOP “extremists.” Because they “oppose Planned Parenthood’s mission and services, they made completely false claims intended to deceive the public.”
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Hyde Amendment initially affected only funding for abortions under Medicaid. But over the years, it now limits federal funds for abortion for federal employees and women in the Indian Health Service. Still, states have the most control over insurance regulations and some do allow federal funding to be used for abortions via Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act, for example.
But, Wyoming isn’t one of them. It is one of 30 states, along with Washington, DC, that adheres to the Hyde Amendment.
Locally, the Teton County Republican Party broke from the Wyoming GOP’s stance, as it has been known to do. For example, in 2017, it diverged from the Wyoming GOP’s platform endorsing the transfer of federal public lands to state control. The following year, the state GOP testified against Jackson’s LGBTQ non-discrimination ordinance. Conversely, Teton County Republicans supported it.
Teton County Republican Party Chair Alex Muromcew says the messaging in the Wyoming GOP’s post doesn’t align with the county’s platform. The first two items on that platform are fiscal responsibility and conservation and stewardship. “The third one is respect and compassion for individual freedom, so locally we really take a Libertarian approach to social issues,” Muromcew says.
While the Wyoming GOP seems to be swaying farther right, the Teton County Republican Party, Muromcew says, remains rooted in traditional conservative values. “We prefer a government of small government that is not intruding on a lot of personal freedoms.”
The post by the Wyoming GOP was on the heels of a local protest against abortion bans recently passed in multiple states. That protest, held on Town Square on May 21, was part of a national day of action spearheaded by abortion rights organizations. Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountain West and Chelsea’s Fund organized the local protest.
Among the protesters was Dr. Katie Noyes, an obstetrician/gynecologist who provides abortions at the Women’s Health Center in Jackson. Noyes says she attended the protest because as an abortion provider, the abortion bans hit to close to home for her. She says she also attended because of her patients.
“Every situation is unique and every woman comes at it from such different places that it’s really hard to generalize about what these women are doing and why. For most women, this is not an easy decision, it is not something they would choose to go through again. So I think there is just very little compassion for the circumstances and all the events that happen before they end up in my office. There is a lot of being hung up on the definition of life and when it begins and the rights that this life may or may not have without just sitting down and listening to a woman’s story who is in front of your face.”
Noyes says she is concerned about recent abortion legislation in Wyoming. A bill that would require women to wait 48 hours before having an abortion died in the Senate but is likely to reappear during the next legislative session. The legislation that did pass? An abortion reporting law. It fines physicians up to $25,000 and revokes their licenses if they fail to provide the Wyoming Board of Medicine with detailed information on each procedure they perform.
During the Wyoming legislative session, that bill’s sponsor says he wanted to capture data to make “good policy.” Here is Wyoming Rep. Scott Clem, a Republican from Gillette, speaking to KHOL in March.
“The problem is our reporting law is being ignored … over the last five years, less than five abortion reports total had been reported to the state and that’s in direct contradiction to what organizations like the Guttmacher Institute says that Wyoming has as far as abortions.”
Clem says that data will help lawmakers create good policy when it comes to family planning in the state. Women’s reproductive health advocates, like Noyes, say that notion is disingenuous.
“If the goal is truly to reduce abortions, I would rather see bills come across for more public health funding, free access to contraception for teenagers, and for uninsured and undocumented people who are more vulnerable and less likely to have access to those things. That would be a positive thing to reduce abortions without targeting abortion providers or targeting the procedure itself. There are ways we can reduce the incidence of abortions and it’s just focusing on good sex education and good access to contraception.”
With early abortion bans passed in eight states and a full ban passed in Alabama, abortion providers like Noyes are preparing for more anti-abortion bills to appear during Wyoming’s legislative session next year. She says it’s a shift from what Wyoming has long been, a “hands-off state.”
“I think there is enough Libertarian spirit in this state that a lot of stuff has not passed because people feel strongly about staying out of a doctor’s office and staying out of private decisions, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, so it was scary to see that some legislation did pass this year and we’re certainly expecting more every year.”