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Wyoming Passes Ban on Abortion Medication

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon
Rhianna Gelhart/The Wyoming Tribune Eagle/AP
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon said he expects lawsuits will be filed against newly-passed laws governing abortion in the state.

Wyoming on Friday prohibited abortion medication in a "first of its kind" law, and while also enacting a near-total ban on abortion.

(CNN) — As the fight over abortion pills heats up nationally, Wyoming on Friday prohibited the medication in what NARAL Pro-Choice America called a "first of its kind" law, and also enacted a near-total ban on abortion.

Republican Gov. Mark Gordon signed a bill making it a felony to prescribe, sell, or use "any drug for the purpose of procuring or performing an abortion." Violators could face up to six months in prison and a $9,000 fine.

The legislation takes effect July 1.

Medication abortions are already included in the overall abortion bans in a number of states. Some states have restricted telehealth abortion care, limiting access to medication abortion.

A leading abortion-rights advocate said Wyoming's explicit prohibition of the pills is unique.

"There's no stone that anti-choice extremists will leave unturned as they seek to do everything they can to ensure that abortion is banned across the nation," NARAL Pro-Choice America President Mini Timmaraju said in a statement Saturday. "This first-of-its-kind ban on medication abortion, as well as the total ban, are just the latest proof."

The broader picture

Meanwhile, a federal judge in Texas could rule soon in a case seeking to overturn FDA approval of a drug used in medication abortions. The lawsuit seeks to block access nationwide to mifepristone, the first of two drugs used in the process.

If the lawsuit is successful, 40 million more women of reproductive age would lose access to the drug, according to NARAL. That's in addition to the 24.5 million women of reproductive age living in states with abortion bans, and those "who can get pregnant but who do not identify as women," according to NARAL.

The FDA approved Mifepristone in 2000. In 2020, medication abortions accounted for more than half of US abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, another abortion rights advocacy group.

Legal fights over abortion have been raging across the country since last year when the US Supreme Court threw out Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision guaranteeing abortion rights.

"Already, 17 states and counting are enforcing bans on abortion since" the ruling, NARAL said.

Last week, California's Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state will stop working with Walgreens, the retail drugstore chain that announced it would not dispense abortion pills in 21 Republican-dominated states.

In Wyoming, 'Life is a Human Right Act' becomes law

Wyoming's governor allowed a second anti-abortion bill to become law without his signature. The more sweeping law bans abortion under most circumstances, with penalties of up to five years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

The Life is a Human Right Act allows exceptions for incest, sexual assault, or when the pregnant person's life is in danger, and in cases of "lethal fetal anomaly."

"Abortion as defined in this act is not health care," the act says, citing the Wyoming constitution. "Instead of being health care, abortion is the intentional termination of the life of an unborn baby."

The legislation takes effect Sunday.

Gordon "expressed concern this new law (HB 152) will only result in a new lawsuit, which will delay any resolution to the constitutionality of the abortion ban in Wyoming," according to a statement from his office.

"A person's health, not politics, should guide important medical decisions — including the decision to have an abortion," said Antonio Serrano, ACLU of Wyoming advocacy director, in a statement.

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