Teton Judge Temporarily Blocks Wyoming Abortion Ban
In an emergency hearing, Judge Melissa Owens blocked the implementation of Wyoming's trigger law that would have banned abortion in Wyoming on Wednesday.
The law, which was passed during the most recent legislative session, would have banned abortion, with exceptions for rape, incest, or the health of the mother, barring psychological issues.
In response, a complaint was filed on Monday by Robinson, Welch, Bramlet LLC, to get the judge to issue a temporary restraining order.
The plaintiffs, in this case, include Danielle Johnson, a resident of Teton County who is 22 weeks pregnant, Kathleen Dow, a conservative Jew whose faith requires abortion access, Dr. Giovannina Anthony and Dr. Rene Hinkle, two Obstetrics and Gynecology specialist, and the Wellspring Health Access Clinic in Casper.
John Robinson, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, said there will be harm done to people in Wyoming if the ban were implemented but keeping the abortion ban from being implemented would not harm anyone.
"We submit if you balance these harms, there can be no question that the harm this ban imposes on our clients and all women in Wyoming and all physicians in Wyoming is far greater than a delay and imposition of this statute that the state asks," Robinson said. "Maybe some people's feelings will be hurt, they're mad, just like they've been mad, but there is no irreparable harm identified. And there is a public interest here, it's not adverse to the public interest when we're talking about sacred constitutional values and rights, like the right to decide and determine composition of family."
Jay Jerde, the lawyer representing the state of Wyoming, said that the lawyers for the plaintiff did not provide a proper rationale for why the Wyoming constitution would allow for abortion, that they don't stand a good chance of winning their case, and that they didn't show irreparable injury if the abortion ban was to be implemented.
Owens said she is granting the temporary relief because the law did not provide clear guidance for doctors and patients when it comes to when abortion is permitted.
"If you bootstrap their argument together, the fact that someone currently pregnant ends up having a life-threatening complication," Owens said. "And the new statute that does not mention health care providers' appropriate medical judgment, but the prior statute did, creates an ambiguity for not only Dr. Anthony, but for the patient. That is a possible reprisal injury to the plaintiffs. They are left with no guidance under the new statute as to what to do under that situation. Therefore, the temporary restraining order is granted."
The law office representing the plaintiffs, in this case, did not have any comments to provide at this time.
Bridget Hill, Wyoming's Attorney General, said it is their policy to not comment on pending litigation.
Julie Burkhart, president of Wellspring Health Access, one of the clients in the case, issued a statement following the ruling, and said in an email:
"Today’s ruling, while only a temporary victory, ensures that abortion care remains legal in Wyoming for the time being. If allowed to take effect, the abortion ‘trigger ban’ that was temporarily blocked today would severely restrict Wyomingites’ freedom to make decisions about their own bodies. We will continue our efforts to ensure that Wyoming residents maintain their fundamental, constitutionally protected right to make their own health care decisions."