Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon signed legislation passed by Wyoming’s Republican-led legislature banning the use and prescription of medication abortion pills was signed into law on Friday, in another clear victory for the pro-life movement.
The two-page Wyoming bill now makes it a crime to “prescribe, dispense, distribute, sell or use any drug for the purpose of procuring or performing an abortion,” making it the first U.S. state to issue an outright ban of the controversial medication.
The bill does not include prescription contraceptive medication, also known as the “morning-after” pill, which is used after intercourse if the woman fears an unwanted pregnancy.
The legislation does allow exceptions for any medical treatment that is necessary to safeguard a woman’s life or health from immediate danger, and for any treatment for natural miscarriages that follows medical guidelines.
Breaking this law is considered a criminal misdemeanor, with offenders facing a maximum of six months in prison and a fine of up to $9,000. However, a woman who has undergone a chemical abortion or an attempted one will not be subject to criminal prosecution under the new bill.
Abortion medication is currently estimated to account for more than half of abortions across the U.S., although some pro-abortion campaigners insist it does not induce a medical abortion.
Gordon also allowed for a separate bill, passed by state lawmakers, that prohibits conventional abortion procedures, except in cases of rape, incest, a lethal abnormality in the fetus, or if necessary to protect the life and health of the mother.
Abortion rights in the United States remain highly contentious, with the Supreme Court last year overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that enshrined abortion as a constitutional right.
Since then, legal battles over abortion have intensified as groups such as Planned Parenthood scramble to keep the procedure available nationwide. Last year, Democrats in Congress twice attempted to pass legislation ensuring the right to abortion as a civil right, but were unsuccessful on both occasions.
Gordon acknowledged that the new Wyoming ban has already been challenged by abortion rights campaigners who have filed a preemptive lawsuit to block it, similar to the challenge faced by Wyoming’s “trigger” abortion ban after the Roe v. Wade decision.
He also expressed concern that enacting the new ban could create more complexity in the legal process, thus hindering a fast resolution of the issue by the courts.
“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,” Gordon said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the ACLU of Wyoming’s advocacy director Antonio Serrano condemned the ban and pledged to carry on fighting it in the courts.
“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.”