Abortion will again be legal in Wyoming—at least for now—after a judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked a ban that took effect a few days earlier, the AP reports. Teton County District Court Judge Melissa Owens’ decision halts the ban amid a challenge in her court to a law that took effect Sunday. The Republican-controlled Legislature approved the law despite earlier rulings by Owens that had blocked a previous ban since shortly after it took effect last summer. Owens put the new ban on hold after a hearing Wednesday in which abortion-rights supporters said the law harms pregnant women and their doctors and violates the state constitution. Owens suspended the ban for at least two weeks.
The ban prohibits abortion at all stages of pregnancy except in cases of rape or incest that’s reported to police, or to save a woman’s life. An amendment in the Wyoming Constitution says adults have a right to make their own health care decisions, so Republicans enacted a ban that states abortion is not health care. However, Owens said it's up to the courts, not lawmakers, to decide whether that's the case. “The state can not legislate away a constitutional right. It’s not clear whether abortion is health care. The court has to then decide that,” Owens said in an oral decision given at the end of an hourslong hearing.
The judge did not weigh in on another new abortion law that’s also being challenged in her court: Wyoming’s first-in-the-nation ban on abortion pills. That law, signed by Republican Gov. Mark Gordon on Friday, is not set to take effect until July 1. Two nonprofits, two doctors and two other women have sued to block Wyoming's broader abortion ban. While the new overall abortion ban says abortion is not health care, the new abortion pill ban suggests otherwise, John Robinson, an attorney for the abortion-rights supporters, argued. That pill ban allows “treatment” for miscarriages and to save a woman’s life, he pointed out. “How can abortion be health care in one statute prohibiting abortion and not the other?” Robinson said. “That’s medical treatment.” (Part of Oklahoma's abortion ban was also just overturned.)