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Abortion ‘trigger’ bill clears Legislature

By Maya Shimizu Harris
Casper Star-Tribune
Via- Wyoming News Exchange

CASPER — The Wyoming Legislature passed on Thursday an abortion ban trigger bill, joining 12 other statehouses across the country that have put in place similar legislation.

The measure still requires the signature of Gov. Mark Gordon.

House Bill 92 easily cleared the Senate with a 24 to 5 vote. One senator was excused. Sen. Drew Perkins, R-Casper, and Sen. Fred Baldwin, R-Kemmerer, changed their votes from aye to nay.

The bill will be enacted if the Supreme Court overturns its decision on Roe v. Wade. That possibility has become more likely as the high court has moved to the right.

The new legislation, if ever enacted, would severely restrict abortions, providing exceptions only when carrying a child to term would pose severe health risks for the mother or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

Previously, the bill did not allow exceptions for circumstances involving rape or incest. An amendment by Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, providing for these exceptions passed by a close vote Wednesday. A nearly identical amendment proposed by Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson, failed in the House last week.

Sen. John Kolb, R-Rock Springs, proposed to delete Case’s amendment on Thursday but ultimately withdrew his amendment.

Even if the Supreme Court changes its decision, a new ruling on Roe v. Wade may not be cut and dry. Several legislators pointed out this potential ambiguity as a concern.

“The vagueness will kill us because, Mr. President, we don’t know what the Supreme Court decision will say,” Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, said.

A statement from the ACLU also said that “House Bill 92 provides no definition of what the Legislature considers a “final decision of the Supreme Court.”

“Regardless of how the Court rules in any of the currently pending abortion cases, it is without doubt that the fundamental rights at issue in Roe as they relate to abortion will not cease to be litigated on federal and state levels,” the statement said.

Case has also argued against the bill on the grounds that it would involve the state in individuals’ private medical decisions.

“Make no mistake, this bill tells women what they have to do with their bodies, it’s a form of bondage, Mr. President, to have the state be in control of these very intimate, personal, private decisions,” he told his colleagues. “And all we’re saying is that the Supreme Court is going to magically take over and be the basis for Wyoming law.”

Sen. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, suggested on Wednesday waiting to see how the Supreme Court rules on the case before putting in place an abortion ban. This, she said, would allow the Legislature to analyze the decision and establish a clear effective date. (The bill states that an abortion ban will be enacted “five days after the date that the governor certifies to the secretary of state that the Supreme Court of the United States has overruled Roe v. Wade…” in a manner that would authorize the bill’s abortion ban.)

An adopted amendment by Sen. Lynn Hutchings, R-Cheyenne, resolved some of Ellis’ other concerns related to the enactment of the bill.

Ellis said on Wednesday that she was “really uncomfortable” with language in the bill implying that the attorney general would be given authority to impose the legislation.

The language of the amendment reasserts the governor’s authority in enacting the bill.

The ACLU said in its statement that this clarification, however, does nothing to address concerns about the ambiguity of putting in place such legislation when a Supreme Court decision may be unclear.

The organization also said in a statement after the bill’s approval that the new legislation “improperly delegates legislative power to the executive branch.”

“In assigning the executive branch the responsibility of enacting law based upon future hypothetical case outcomes, House Bill 92 is creating a codified, inflexible mandate that lacks clarity,” said ACLU of Wyoming campaigns director Libby Skarin.

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